UK unemployment has fallen in March, bringing in the best rate since mid-2008.
Data from the Office for National Statistics shows that in the first quarter employment for those aged 16 to 64 rose to 73.5 per cent, up from 72.5 per cent a year earlier. Employment was up by 202,000 in the three months to March, reaching a record high of 31.1 million.
Unemployment for the first quarter was 5.5 per cent, down from 6.8 per cent a year earlier.
Wages grew in the three-month period too, with average weekly earnings up 2.2 per cent, excluding bonuses, up from 1.8 per cent the month earlier.
The employment data is particularly encouraging as “the growth in employment was mainly in employees working full-time,” says Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight.
“We expect the number of jobless to trend steadily downward over the coming months, taking the unemployment rate down to 5.2 per cent by the end of 2015, and to 4.9 per cent by the end of 2016,” he adds.
Employment data and wage growth rising will all contribute to interest rates rising this year, predicted Clive Beagles, manager of the UK equity income fund at JO Hambro Capital Management, speaking at the Morningstar conference yesterday.