Unemployment falls to eight-year low of 1.67 million

Unemployment has fallen to an eight-year low as the numbers in work continues to reach record levels, new figures have shown.

The jobless total was cut by 20,000 in the quarter to April to 1.67 million, the lowest since the spring of 2008.

But the number of women out of work was 12,000 higher at 779,000, the Office for National Statistics reported.

The final set of official labour market figures before the EU referendum next week also showed that 31.5 million people are in work - the highest since records began in 1971.

The UK now has an employment rate of 74% - another record high - and a jobless rate of 5%, the lowest for a decade.

The number of people on the claimant count dropped by 400 last month to 746,100, although the figure for April has been revised to show an increase of 6,400 in the light of later information on those claiming the out-of-work element of Universal Credit.

The claimant count is 47,900 lower than a year ago.

Economic inactivity, including those looking after a relative, on long-term sick leave or who have given up looking for work, fell by 9,000 in the latest quarter to 8.9 million.

The figure for women reached a record low of 5.5 million.

Average earnings increased by 2% in the year to April, unchanged on the previous month.

Other data from the ONS showed public sector employment has increased by 6,000, mainly because of a rise in NHS staff.

Local government employment has reached a record low of 2.2 million after a fall of 17,000 in recent months.

The number of workers in private firms has topped 26 million - 50,000 more than at the end of last year and almost half a million more than a year ago.

Employment in the NHS is now 1.6 million, a rise of 31,000 since March last year.

Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb said: "Secure employment and a decent wage are key to transforming the life chances of people right the way across the country, so I'm delighted to see another strong set of figures this month.

"There are more people in work than ever before and wages are continuing their upward climb, which is great news for hard-working families who have seen a rise in their living standards over the past year.

"Our economic plan is delivering jobs and security right across the UK."

Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns said: "An expanding Welsh economy is creating a strong jobs market.

"Today's statistics again point to a confident Wales, which is exporting and trading its way to greater success.

"There is more work to do, and there is also some suggestion that investments are being paused until the EU referendum result is known. But I am confident Wales will continue to pull ahead and continue to create highly skilled jobs with wages to match."

Chancellor George Osborne tweeted: "At 5%, unemployment at its lowest rate for eleven years - let's not put that at risk by irreversible decision to quit EU."

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