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A record number of people getting jobs have led to the lowest level of Britain’s unemployment rate fell in more than five years in the first quarter of 2014. Though below forecasts, pay growth rose more than inflation for the first time since 2010.
The unemployment rate dropped to 6.8 percent in the January-March period, its lowest since the three months to February 2009 and down from 6.9 percent in the three months to February this year, the Office for National Statistics said.
The number of people in employment rose to a new record of 30.43 million in the first quarter, helped by a latest increase in the number of people who are registered as self-employed.
The increase in people finding work of 283,000 was the largest quarterly increase since records began in 1971.
The data will help Prime Minister David Cameron as he tries to convince voters that Britain’s economy is back on track as the May 2015 national elections approach.
The opposition Labour party has said the recovery in earnings is still too feeble to offset the fall in living standards since the financial crisis.
Apart from a few one-off months, pay growth has not consistently been stronger than inflation since 2008.
Britain’s independent budget forecaster expects that hourly earnings, adjusted for inflation, will probably lag pre-crisis levels until the end of 2016.
Excluding bonuses, pay rose 1.3 percent in the first quarter, below forecasts, and by 1.0 percent in March alone.
The number of people claiming unemployment benefits fell by 25,100 – less than expected – to 1.12 million in April. The pace of decline has slowed from last year.
There have been other signs that April was a strong month for employment.