UK unemployment rate hits 44-year low

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

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LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) — The British unemployment rate has struck a 44-year low, official data showed yesterday, despite a broader economic slowdown as Brexit looms.

The jobless rate — or proportion of the workforce that is unemployed — hit 3.9 per cent in the three months to the end of January, the lowest level since 1975, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

That followed 4.0 per cent in the three months to December, the ONS added in a statement, while expectations had been for no change.

The total number of unemployed people slid by 35,000 to 1.34 million in the year to January, which was 112,000 lower than a year ago.

Economists said the labour market update painted a bright picture, despite a slowing economy with Britain scheduled to leave the European Union next week.

“A much stronger labour market report than expected — and particularly impressive given recent slower UK economic activity, heightened Brexit uncertainties and a weaker global economy,” said Ernst & Young (EY) economist Howard Archer.

“The latest strong jobs data is somewhat surprising as some surveys had indicated that a growing number of employers are now adopting a 'wait-and-see' approach on employment, given the current heightened uncertainties.”

The ONS added that wage growth continued to outpace inflation.

Average earnings including bonuses increased by 3.4 per cent in the year to January from a year earlier.

That handed another boost to the purchasing power of workers' salaries.

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