Unemployment down to 5.7% as labour market continues to pick up

18 Mar 15

The unemployment rate was 5.7% over the three months to January, Office of National Statistics figures have revealed ahead of today’s Budget.

Latest labour market data showed that the number of unemployed people looking for work fell by 102,000 to 1.86 million between November to January last year. Over the year, there were 479,000 fewer people out of work.

The employment rate reached 73.3% over the quarter, the highest it has ever been since comparable records began in 1971, according to the ONS. Employment grew by 143,000 to reach 30.94 million, in the three months when compared to the preceding quarter.

Commenting on the final set of official national statistics in this parliament, the Department for Work and Pensions said the employment rate had hit an all time high.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: ‘This is a remarkable set of figures, which underlines this government’s success in backing businesses to create jobs, and supporting British people to seize those opportunities.

‘As a country we should be proud that there are now record numbers of people in work, record numbers of job vacancies available, and the lowest unemployment rate since 2008. Thanks to our long-term economic plan, Britain is looking forward to a brighter, better, and more secure future.’

Geraint Johnes, director at Lancaster University’s Work Foundation, said that the rising number of vacancies (735,000 at any one time) provided further sign of a healthy recovery.

‘Ahead of today’s Budget Statement, the Chancellor can be encouraged by the latest release of labour market statistics,’ Johnes said.

‘Over the most recent quarter, the number of full-time employees has increased by 139,000, while the number of part-time employees has risen by 24,000. There has been a decline of some 42,000 in the number of self-employed workers, but an increase of 24,000 in the self-employed working part-time.’

He added that pay had been an issue of considerable interest in recent months, with the apparent restoration of wages growth.

‘While the latest figures continue to show rising pay in real terms – following a very prolonged and severe decline – the rate of increase has, in the most recent data, appeared to slow somewhat.

‘The year-on-year change in total pay in January was just 1.1% (down from 2.4% the previous month). This sharp fall is largely accounted for by the distorting effect of end-of-year bonuses in the financial sector. Excluding the effect of bonuses, the annual rate of pay growth is steady at 1.6%,’ Johnes continued.

  • Judith Ugwumadu

    Judith Ugwumadu joined Public Finance International and Public Finance online as a reporter after stints at Financial Adviser, Global Security Finance and The Sunday Express. Currently, she writes about public finance, public services and economics.

    Follow her on @JudithUgwumadu_

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