Unemployment falls to 6.9%

The unemployment rate fell by 77,000 to 2.24 million between December 2013 and February 2014, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The official unemployment rate now stands at 6.9%, the lowest since February 2009.

Key employment data:

  • 30.39 million people were in work between December 2013 and February 2014
  • This is 691,000 more people than the same period a year earlier
  • 72.6% of people between 16 and 64 were employed between December 2013 and February 2014.

The ONS figures also show that average weekly pay rose 1.7% during the same period.

With inflation currently at 1.6%, this is the first time that average wages have grown faster than inflation since 2010.

Key ONS wages data:

  • Total private sector pay including bonuses rose 2%
  • Total public sector pay including bonuses rose 0.9%
  • Excluding financial services, total public sector pay including bonuses rose 1.3%.

David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

“The labour market is continuing to strengthen, with employment up, unemployment down, and the number of inactive people falling. This demonstrates that the resilience and flexibility of the UK labour market is a source of strength for our economy.”

A separate study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research found that SME salaries were up 1.2% year-on-year in Q4 2013, with labour costs accounting for around 30% of total expenses.

Another report published by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) revealed that permanent salary growth in March 2014 rose at the fastest rate since July 2007.

Tom Hadley, director of policy at the REC, said:

“The trend of growth in people finding jobs across all industrial sectors and regions continues. Starting salaries and hourly pay rates are up as employers battle to entice the talent they need. As real wages begin to rise across the jobs market people will start to feel better off.”