17th April 2015
UK unemployment has fallen to its lowest rate since before the financial crisis.
According to figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the rate of unemployment in the UK have fallen by 76,000 to 1.84 million in the three months to February – the lowest figures since July 2008.
The overall unemployment rate has fallen to 5.6%, in line with forecasts. Meanwhile, the number of people in work has risen by 557,000 over the last year to hit a new record high of over 31 million – more than four-fifths of the jobs created have been full-time positions.
Average weekly earnings in the three months to February, up 1.8% compared to the same period last year. The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in March fell 20,700 to 772,400, according to the statistics.
Ben Brettell, senior economist at Hargreaves Lansdown, said the figures compared favourably with the UK’s developed world peers.
‘The unemployment rate is almost as low as in the US – widely praised by economists for its flexible labour market – where employment hit 5.5% in February,’ he said.
‘In the eurozone, the rate is more than double the UK’s at 11.3%. Wages continues to grow at a steady, if unspectacular pace…With inflation remaining at 0%, the squeeze on household budgets continue to ease. After a long period of earnings falling in real terms, living standards are now rising.
‘The Bank of England has previously said that it wants to see a marked increase in pay before judging that sufficient labour market slack has been eroded for interest rates to rise. If pay growth continues to improve, this removes a key barrier to higher interest rates.’
Brettell added that he expected interest rates to remain at 0.5% ‘well into 2016’.