UK unemployment held at 5.1% over the three months from November to January, the lowest rate since 2006.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that weekly earnings grew at a faster pace than expected. Meanwhile job creation slowed over the same period.
The number of unemployed fell by 28,000 from the last quarter to 1.68 million. 31.42 million are in work, which is 478,000 up on a year ago. The employment rate is 74.1%, which is the joint highest rate of employment since records began in 1971.
In total 22.94 million people are working full-time, an increase of 302,000 over the previous year. 8.48 million are working part-time, which is 177,000 more than the year before. The report lists 8.89 million people aged 16-64 as ‘economically inactive’, which means they are not working and not seeking work.
The number of people claiming benefits also fell to the lowest level since April 1975. In February a total of 716,700 people claimed out-of-work benefits. This was a reduction of 18,000 from January and 102,500 on the previous year.
Average earnings increased by 2.1% (including bonuses) in the year to January. Excluding bonuses, the increase was 2.2%, a 0.2% increase on the previous three-month period. Total wages in the private sector rose by 2.3% in January, compared to 2.1% in December.
Economists had been anticipating an overall increase of 2% on earnings including bonuses.
Despite this, wage growth has failed to meet the rapid fall in unemployment and remains below pre-financial crisis levels. The rate is unlikely to grow over this year given the slowing global economy.
The ONS published the data on the morning of George Osborne’s latest Budget. Earlier this week the Chancellor unveiled a rise in the minimum wage for under-25s that will come in this October.