The UK unemployment rate has fallen to 4.6%, its lowest in 42 years, as inflation outstrips wage growth, official figures show.
The number of people unemployed fell by 53,000 to 1.54 million in the three months to March, said the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Average weekly earnings excluding bonuses increased by 2.1%.
On Tuesday, figures showed inflation hit 2.7% in April, up from 2.3%, its highest since September 2013.
The jobless rate has not been lower since the June to August period of 1975.
The employment rate, the proportion of 16 to 64-year-olds in work, was 74.8%, the highest since records began in 1971.
- “Theresa May will be pleased to see unemployment drop to its lowest rate since 1975, which echoes her rallying calls for ‘strength and stability’ during the unpredictable economic climate that comes with Brexit negotiations,” said Dennis de Jong, managing director at UFX.com.
- “However, alarm bells will be ringing for Britons with wages continuing to fall. This could cause a headache for the government over the standard of living in post-Brexit Britain in the run-up to next month’s general election,” he added.
- Ben Brettell, senior economist at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “With inflation forecast to carry on rising – Bank of England policymakers predict inflation will peak at a little below 3% in the fourth quarter – household budgets look certain to be squeezed further in the coming months.”
Between January and March, the number of 16 to 64-year-old women in jobs was 70.2%, also the highest rate since records began.
Meanwhile, 79.5% of 16 to 64-year-old men were in work, the highest since 1991.
The ONS attributed the rise in the rate of women’s employment, in part, to changes to the State Pension age for women, which has meant fewer women retiring between 60 and 65.
The unemployment rate among 16 to 24-year-olds was 12.5%, down from 13.7% in January to March of last year.
“The unemployment rate for those aged from 16 to 24 has been consistently higher than that for older age groups,” said the ONS.
In late 2011 youth unemployment reached a peak of 22.5%, and even at its lowest in 2001, it was running at 11.5%.
Between early 1992, when comparable records began, and this year, the proportion of young people in full-time education jumped from 26.2% to 44%.
The number of UK nationals working in the UK increased by 179,000 compared with January to March of last year to stand at 28.31 million.
The number of non-UK nationals working in the UK increased by 207,000 to a record 3.55 million, meaning 11.1% of all people working in the UK are non-UK nationals.
Source: BBC News