Highest level of jobs since January 2009

 
Julian Harris
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CLOSE to half a million jobs were created in the year to March, according to official data released yesterday.

Employment was up by 118,000 people in the first three months of the year, compared to the final quarter of 2010 – and up 416,000 on the same time last year.

The total number of jobs, 29.24m, was the highest since the three months to January 2009.

The UK private sector created 83,000 jobs in the final three months of 2010, almost double the number of jobs lost from government sector cuts over the same period.

“The general message seems to be one of an improving labour market, which tallies well with the business surveys and evidence from recruitment consultancies,” said Markit economist Chris Williamson.

Unemployment in the UK dropped by 36,000 in the first quarter of the year, to 7.7 per cent of the economically active population, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed.

However, unemployment benefit payments unexpectedly edged upwards by 12,400 in April, to 1.47m.

“With claimant count data affected by changes to benefit rules, it seems appropriate to focus on the wider survey-based measure of unemployment,” Williamson said. “And this is the lowest since September 2010.”

Wages were up 2.3 per cent annualised in the first quarter, yet growth eased to 2.1 per cent without bonuses.

Total pay growth in the finance and business services sector accelerated from 4.6 per cent to 6.2 per cent.

“Combined with yesterday’s consumer price index report showing rising inflation, this adds to the case for a rate rise before the end of the year,” commented ING’s James Knightley.

The redundancy rate was 4.9 per 1,000 employees, down one per thousand from the last quarter.