Unemployment falls to 42 year low with zero-hour contracts on the rise

Jobcentre Plus on Pottergate. Picture:: James Bass

Jobcentre Plus on Pottergate. Picture:: James Bass - Credit: Evening News � 2009

Unemployment has fallen to 4.7%, its lowest rate since 1975, in the three months to January – but wage growth has slowed.

The claimant count fell by 11,300 last month to 734,700, the Office for National Statistics said, with unemployment falling by 31,000 to 1.58 million.

In the East of England the number unemployed fell by 9,000 to 138,000.

Nationally there were 23.34 million people working full-time in the quarter, 305,000 more than a year earlier, and 8.52 million people working part-time, 10,000 more than for a year earlier.

The employment rate was 74.6%, the joint highest since comparable records began in 1971.

But the jobs boom has also seen a record number of workers employed on zero-hours contracts in their main job.

Workers on the controversial contracts increased by 101,000 in the last quarter of 2016 to 905,000 compared with the previous year.

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The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said those on zero-hours contracts were more likely to be young, women, part-time or in full-time education.

ONS senior statistician David Freeman said: 'With the unemployment rate last lower in summer 1975 and the employment rate still at a record high, the labour market remains robust.

'But smaller wage increases and higher inflation mean the growth in real earnings has slowed sharply in recent months.'

A record 4.8 million people are now self-employed, up by 49,000 on the quarter and 148,000 over the past year, representing 15.1% of the total workforce.

Those classed as economically inactive, including people looking after a relative, on long-term sick leave or who have given up looking for work, fell by 34,000 to 8.8 million.