Unemployment falls to 10-year low as job vacancies soar


Unemployment has fallen to its lowest in a decade as a record number of job vacancies are on offer, new figures show.

The jobless total was cut by 45,000 in the quarter to February to 1.56 million, a reduction of 141,000 since a year ago and the lowest since the end of 2006.

The number of people in work continued to increase - up by 39,000 on the latest quarter to 31.8 million, giving an employment rate of 74.6%, the joint highest since records began in 1971.

Vacancies were up by 16,000 to a record 767,000, with strong growth in accommodation and food services sectors.

The number of people classed as economically inactive, including those looking after a relative, on long-term sick leave, or who have given up looking for work, fell by 10,000 to 8.8 million, although the rate remained little changed at 21.6%.

Average earnings increased by 2.3% in the year to February, unchanged from the previous month, reported the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Senior ONS statistician David Freeman said: "A joint record employment rate and a new record high for the number of vacancies point to continued strength in the labour market.

"However, higher inflation, coupled with subdued earnings increases, means that the real growth rate in pay has tailed off to just above zero."

The number of self-employed workers has increased by 17,000 to 4.78 million, 15% of all people in work, and close to a record high.

The ONS also reported a shift in part-time to full-time employment. 

Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green said: "This is yet another strong set of figures, with unemployment at a rate that hasn't been beaten since the 1970s and more vacancies than ever before.

"More people are finding full-time jobs and average wages have grown yet again, meaning more families have the security of a regular wage.

"However, there is always more to do. That's why we're creating a welfare system that rewards work through Universal Credit, which helps claimants keep more of the money they earn."