UK unemployment drop is “modest” but still the lowest for a decade

The UK employment rate has reached another high as wages increase and women retire later.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that unemployment fell to 1.69 million between January and March. This is down 2,000 from the previous quarter.

The data showed that wage growth, including bonuses, rose in the same period by 2 per cent from a year earlier, although excluding bonuses, these were down from 2.2 per cent in the three months to February to 2.1 per cent for the first quarter of this year.

The number of job vacancies dropped by 18,000 to 745,000, the ONS added, marking the first fall for almost a year.

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Stephen Crabb, hailed another record-breaking set of figures, pointing out that the unemployment rate, at 5.1 per cent, is the lowest in a decade.

But David Freeman, a senior statistician at the ONS, said the rise in employment was “modest”. He added: “The employment rate has hit another record high, but this time the increase is quite modest.

“With unemployment very little changed, that is further evidence the jobs market could be cooling off.”

Much of the rise has been attributed to the fact women are staying in work longer. In recent years the government has aimed to raise the retirement age for women from 60.

Economists believe the data will reinforce belief that an interest rate hike will not happen for some time.