UK unemployment falls to 1.86m

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From the BBC:

UK unemployment has fallen by 102,000 to 1.86 million in the three months to January, official figures show.

The unemployment rate remains at 5.7% but the number of people in work is at an all-time high, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) said.

The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance also fell to 791,200, its lowest level since 1975.

Average earnings in the three months to January, including bonuses, rose 1.8% compared with a year earlier.

Regular pay, which excludes bonus payments, rose by 1.6%, in the same period compared with a year ago.

It means earnings continue to outstrip consumer price index (CPI) inflation, which official figures showed fell to a record low of 0.3% in January.

The employment figures will be a fillip for Chancellor George Osborne, who delivers his final Budget before the general election later on Wednesday.

The employment rate now stands at 73.3%, the highest rate of people in work since the ONS began keeping records in 1971.

The number of young people out of work, however, has stayed stubbornly high. The ONS said the number of 16 to 24-year-olds out of work fell by just 12,000 in the three months to January, to 743,000.

The rise in average earnings is also slower than last month. In February, the ONS said average wages including bonuses rose by 2.1% in the three months to December, compared with the same period a year earlier.

Pay excluding bonuses rose by 1.7% in the three months to December.

Elsewhere within the figures, the number of self-employed people rose by 33,000 to reach 4.53 million.

Mr Osborne hailed the latest employment figures, claiming they marked another “economic milestone” and “confirmed a new record high employment rate, alongside a claimant count that has not been lower since 1975”.

He said: “This good news is further proof that the government’s long-term economic plan is working and that British families are seeing the results, with regular wages rising more than five times faster than prices.”

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