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UK unemployment falls by 161,000 to reach 2.16 million

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Unemployment in the UK fell by 161,000 to 2.16 million in the three months to April, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The unemployment rate now stands at 6.6 per cent, down 0.6 percentage points from November 2013 to January 2014 and down 1.2 percentage points from a year earlier.

The ONS said the number of people in employment increased by 345,000 on the quarter and by 780,000 on the year to reach 30.54 million for February to April 2014.

Average pay including bonuses for the quarter was 0.7 per cent higher than a year earlier, with pay excluding bonuses 0.9 per cent higher.

Some 72.9 per cent of people aged 16 to 64 are in work, just 0.1 percentage point lower than before the downturn of 2008-09. 

Ben Brettell, economics editor at Hargreaves Lansdown, said that while the wage growth figures are likely to reignite debate on the ‘cost of living crisis’ they could be misleading as companies deferring bonuses last year impacted the numbers.  

He said: “The bigger picture is that there is a trend for both price and wage inflation to be subdued – any upward movement in real wages over the coming months is therefore likely to be a slow grind.

“Today’s figures are consistent with the Bank of England’s view that, whilst it is improving, there remains sufficient slack in the labour market to justify leaving interest rates on hold for now. I remain of the view that interest rates will stay at 0.5 per cent for some time yet, probably not rising until after next year’s general election.”

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