Unemployment falls to near seven-year low

Unemployment. Photo: Philip Toscano/PA Wire

Unemployment. Photo: Philip Toscano/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Unemployment has continued to fall, down to a near seven-year low, while a record number of people are in work.

The jobless total dipped by 97,000 in the quarter to last December to 1.86 million - almost half a million down on a year ago.

Employment increased by 103,000 to almost 31 million, the highest since records began in 1971.

The number of people claiming jobseeker's allowance was cut by 38,600 in December to 823,000, the 27th consecutive monthly fall and the lowest since the summer of 2008.

The UK now has the third lowest unemployment rate in the European Union at 5.7%, behind Austria (4.9%) and Germany (4.8%), according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Pay continued to rise ahead of inflation, with average earnings increasing by 2.1% in the year to December, 0.3% up on the previous month.

CPI inflation was 0.5% in December.

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Long-term unemployment is also down, falling by 210,000 for those out of work for over a year, to 638,000.

Self-employment was down by 19,000 over the latest quarter to 4.5 million, around 14% of total employment.

The number of people in part-time jobs wanting full-time work is also down, by 28,000 to 1.3 million.

But people classed as economically inactive, including those on long-term sick leave, looking after a relative or who have given up looking for work, increased by 22,000 to more than nine million.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: 'With unemployment continuing to fall, wages rising, and a record number of people in work, it's clear that the Government's long-term economic plan to get the country back on track is working.

'In the week that Universal Credit started its nationwide roll-out, these figures show that a reformed welfare system goes hand in hand with helping people to take advantage of the record number of vacancies available.

'The jobs-led recovery is changing people's lives for the better on a daily basis. We are getting people into work, making work pay, and in so doing we are ensuring a better future for Britain.'