Employment reaches record high as wages rise above inflation for first time in nearly a year

Employment has risen nationally, but fallen slightly in the East of England. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Employment has risen nationally, but fallen slightly in the East of England. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Earnings have grown above inflation for the first time in almost a year as employment hit record levels, new figures show.

The number of people in work increased by 55,000 in the three months to February to 32.2 million, the highest figure since records began in 1971, giving an employment rate of 75.4%, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Meanwhile unemployment nationally has reached its lowest level in a decade after falling by 16,000 to 1.42 million in the same period, giving a rate of 4.2%.

In the East of England 3.05 million people were in work, 16,000 fewer than in the previous quarter, causing employment rate to drop by 0.6% to 78%. Unemployment remained unchanged at 118,000, a rate of 3.7%.

Nationally, average earnings increased by 2.8% in the year to February, the highest since September 2015 and unchanged from the previous month.

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The CPI inflation figure is expected to remain at 2.7% when new figures are published on Wednesday.

Senior ONS statistician Matt Hughes said: 'The labour market continues to be strong, and for the first time in almost a year, earnings have grown slightly after inflation has been taken into account. Employment rose again in the three months to February, to reach its highest ever rate since records began. The unemployment rate fell, too, and is at its lowest since 1975.'

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