Unemployment falls to 4.7%

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Unemployment fell slightly to 4.7% in the three months to February, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.

The figures show there were 1.56 million unemployed people (people not in work but seeking and available to work), 45,000 fewer than for September to November 2016 and 141,000 fewer than for a year earlier.

The unemployment rate was 4.7%, down from 5.1% for a year earlier. It has not been lower since June to August 1975.

Employment rose most for women, by 0.8%, compared with 0.2% for men, although men were more likely to be in work. Some 79.4% of men were in work compared with 69.9% of women aged from 16 to 64 were in work. The increase in the employment rate for women is partly due to ongoing changes to the State Pension age for women resulting in fewer women retiring between the ages of 60 and 65.

The number of women in full-time work rose significantly, while there was a slight fall in part-time work. The number of men working part time also fell on the year before.

The number of employees increased by 192,000 to 26.85 million (84.3% of all people in work) and the number of self-employed people rose by 114,000 to 4.78 million (15% of all people in work).

However, the ONS figures show wages are almost flatlining. Latest estimates show that average weekly earnings for employees in Great Britain in real terms (that is, adjusted for price inflation) increased by 0.2% including bonuses, and by 0.1% excluding bonuses, compared with a year earlier.

Rachel Smith, CBI Principal Labour Market Economist, said: “It’s good to see more people in work, and with the level of vacancies the highest on record, access to the right skills remains a key challenge.

“With inflation rising, real pay growth has fallen back for the third month in a row now. This remains a concern, so it’s vital that productivity increases if we are to see earnings head up.

“Developing a modern industrial strategy, making the most of a skilled workforce that delivers across the UK, will be key to helping firms give productivity a meaningful boost.”

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