Fears of a triple-dip recession are still strong, but looking at the jobs market in Britain you just wouldn’t know that.
The latest figures show the tenth consecutive fall in unemployment, with 552,000 more jobs than the same time last year – the largest increase in the number of people in work since 1989.
Overall, the number of Britons claiming unemployment benefit in December fell to the lowest level since mid-2011, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Some 12,100 fewer people are claiming jobless benefit – with the claimant count now at 1.56 million – while the number of people without a job on the wider ILO measure also dropped by 37,000 in the three months to November to 2.5 million – the lowest since March-May 2011.
More jobs than ever, but where?
Private sector job creation has been one of the few positives for a British economy that is still struggling to avoid slipping into its third technical recession since 2008.
The number of people in work hit 29.7 million in the three months to November, the highest since records began in 1971.
The strong performance of the labour market has puzzled economists and policymakers in recent quarters and provided a rare bright spot for the Government.
The latest official data follows surveys of purchasing managers that showed a fall in employment last month both in Britain's factories and service firms, as well as another poll pointing to slower growth in recruitment.
It also comes hot on the heels of a string of high-profile retailers declaring themselves insolvent.
"Quietly and without much fuss, the economy is piling on private sector jobs," said David Morel, director of recruitment agency Tiger Recruitment.
"The real star performers are Britain's small and medium-sized companies, who have come out fighting. They must take much of the credit for the 823,000 private sector jobs added in the past year.
"Many are recruiting hard - and not just part-time or temporary staff. Such confidence is hugely encouraging, and the market is in far ruder health than it was at the same time last year."
Working for less
There might be more people in work, but salaries still aren’t rising fast enough to keep up with prices.
The ONS said average weekly earnings growth including bonuses slowed to 1.5% in the three months through November in line with forecasts. Excluding bonuses, pay grew by 1.4%.
That still leaves wage growth well below inflation, which held at 2.7% in December, weighing on consumers' ability to spend and support the economy.