Jobless rate reaches 42-year low at 1.54 million

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The UK's unemployment rate has fallen to a 42-year low as a record number of people are in work, figures show.

The jobless total fell by 53,000 to 1.54 million in the quarter to March, a rate of 4.6%, the lowest since summer 1975.

Employment has increased by 122,000 to almost 32 million, the highest since records began in 1971, reported the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Average earnings increased by 2.4% in the year to March, just 0.1% up on the previous month and below the latest CPI inflation rate of 2.7%.

Average weekly earnings in real terms, adjusted for inflation, fell by 0.2% excluding bonuses compared with a year earlier.

Other key figures show:

:: The number of people on the claimant count rose by 19,400 to 792,800, mainly because of an increase in those on Universal Credit.

:: The number of people classed as economically inactive fell by 40,000 in the latest quarter to 8.8 million, the lowest for a year.

:: The rate of economic inactivity was 21.5% of all 16 to 64-year-olds, the lowest on record. The total includes people looking after a relative, on sick leave or who have given up looking for a job.

:: The number of non-UK nationals working in this country increased by 207,000 to a record 3.5 million between January and March. The number was 928,000 in 1997, and the proportion of non-UK nationals rose from 3.5% to 11.1% over the same period.

:: The number of job vacancies in the UK has reached a record high of 777,000 after a 22,000 increase in the quarter to March.

:: Self-employment has continued to increase - up by 82,000 to a near record 4.78 million, 15% of all people in work.

:: Unpaid family workers increased by 15,000 to 117,000.

Wales' First Minister, Carwyn Jones, said: "Employment in Wales today stands at an historic high level, with the number of employed up by 25,000 over the last three months.

"Improvement in the rate of economic inactivity in Wales has outperformed all parts of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland over the past year, while employment in Wales has improved at a rate of more than double the UK average over that same period."