Largest fall in unemployment since 1988

Economic recovery continues to gather pace as jobless rate falls to 6.2%

Unemployment figures released

The UK's improving jobs market delivered more cheer for the Government today after the largest annual fall in unemployment since 1988.

The jobless total was 2.02 million in the quarter to July, down by 146,000 on February to April, giving a lower-than-expected unemployment rate of 6.2%.

And the number of people claiming jobseeker's allowance in August fell to a figure below one million for the first time in six years, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Chancellor George Osborne tweeted: "Today's employment stats mark another step towards full employment. But still much more to do."

Budgets still squeezed

Despite the improving picture on unemployment, the figures showed no let-up in the squeeze on household living standards.

Average earnings including bonuses rose by 0.6% in the year to July, which is well short of the current rate of inflation at 1.5%.

Bank of England governor Mark Carney warned last week that a resumption of wage growth in real terms was not likely until the middle of next year.

Economists think the Bank will want to see stronger signs that wages are growing before deciding to lift interest rates from their low of 0.5%.

Scott Corfe, head of macroeconomics at the Centre for Economics and Business Research, said the latest wage figures threatened to take steam out of an economic recovery which has been heavily driven by consumer spending to date.

He added: "Indeed, recent retail data, which show sales growth slowing, suggest this is already happening."

There are now 30.61 million people in work, 74,000 more than February to April, the smallest quarterly increase since April to June 2013.

The number of people working part-time lifted 52,000 to 6.76 million from a year ago.

The ONS said most of the growth in employment is being driven by women working part-time, although there has been a slight increase in the number of full-time employees.

Jobless total down 468,000

The number of people working part-time who want to be in full-time employment is down to 1.3 million and is now at its lowest level since the end of 2011.

The overall jobless total is now down 468,000 on a year earlier, the largest annual fall in unemployment since 1988.

The claimant count fell for the 22nd month in a row in August by 37,200 to 966,500 - the first time the figure has been below one million since September 2008.

Labour shadow employment minister Stephen Timms said: "Today's fall in overall unemployment is welcome, but the new figures have shown working people are seeing their pay falling far behind the cost of living."

"Pay excluding bonuses today is the lowest on record. Under this Government wages after inflation have already fallen by over £1,600 a year since 2010 and by next year working people will have seen the biggest fall in wages of any Parliament since 1874."

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