Unemployment fell to 5.1% between November and January with employment being at its joint highest level since records began in 1971, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.
They show that there were 923,000 unemployed men, 102,000 fewer than for a year earlier. There were 762,000 unemployed women, 69,000 fewer than for a year earlier. Most of the increase in employment was in full-time jobs – 22.94 million people were working full-time, 302,000 more than for a year earlier. There were 8.48 million people working part-time, 177,000 more than for a year earlier.
Some 79.2% of men and 69.1% of women aged from 16 to 64 were in work and employment rates for both men and women were higher than for August to October 2015 and for a year earlier. The employment rate for women was the joint highest since comparable records began in 1971. The ONS says this 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 figures also showed the biggest increase in jobs was in employment: the number of employees increased by 399,000 to 26.59 million while the number of self-employed people increased by 106,000 to 4.63 million.
Average weekly earnings for employees in Great Britain increased by 2.1% including bonuses and by 2.2% excluding bonuses compared with a year earlier.
Mark Beatson, chief economist for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said: “The Government cheered today’s fall in unemployment, and rightly so, but we have to look beyond simply getting people into work. We have to look at how we’re developing people at work as well, and this must involve a focus on skills and improved leadership and management capability. The increased cost of doing business – through the National Minimum Wage increase, the introduction of the National Living Wage and employer pension contributions – could make employers more cautious about hiring extra staff.”