UK employment rate hit record high of 73.4 per cent in February

Jessica Morris
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Britain's employment rate hit a record high (Source: Getty)

Britain's employment rate has risen to its highest level since comparable records began around 44 years ago, which could provide a boost to the Tories and Lib Dems as they gear up for the General Election.

The final jobs and earnings before the election, released today by the Office for National Statistics, showed the number of people in work rose to 73.4 per cent which is the highest figure since 1971.

Overall there were about 31.05m people in work, representing 248,000 more than for the same period last year, and 557,000 more than from a year earlier.

"This indicates that employment growth has actually picked up recently after slowing in the latter months of 2014," Howard Archer, chief economist at IHS, said.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate continued to fall, hitting 5.6 per cent, its lowest level in nearly seven years.

Annual wage growth including bonuses rose by 1.7 per cent including bonuses for three months to February, representing a slowdown from 1.9 per cent in the three months to January.

Regular pay was up by 1.8 per cent, and this was higher than the 1.9 per cent annual increase for the three months to January.

This comes against a backdrop of zero inflation - meaning wages are rising at a time when prices remain flat - nevertheless economists were left wanting more.

"Weak wage growth remains the bugbear of the economy, slowing further in the three months to February," Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, said.

"The weakness of wage growth leaves the consumer-led economic upturn reliant on low inflation to drive household spending, posing a risk to growth if inflation picks up later this year," he added.

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