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UK unemployment falls to 44-year low

By Henry Saker-Clark, PA City Reporter

UK unemployment dropped to its lowest level in 44 years in the three months to October, as the number of unemployed women hit a record low.

However, the reduction in unemployment came as wage growth stalled over the period and the number of job vacancies also shrank.

The number of unemployed people in the UK decreased by 13,000 to 1.28 million for the quarter, the Office for National Statistics said.

It meant the rate of unemployment stayed flat at 3.8%, surpassing analyst expectations which had forecast an increase to a 3.9% rate of unemployment.

This was largely driven by a decrease in the unemployment rate for women, which fell to a record low of 3.5% for the period.

Meanwhile, the number of people in work increased by 24,000 to 32.8 million for the quarter, while the proportion of people in employment stayed flat at 76.2%.

Despite the increase, more people were also deemed economically inactive during the period, with the level increasing by 19,000 to 8.61 million for the quarter.

David Freeman, head of labour market and households at the ONS, said: “While the estimate of the employment rate nudged up in the most recent quarter, the longer-term picture has seen it broadly flat over the last few quarters.

“Pay is still increasing in real terms, but its growth rate has slowed in the last few months.”

Average total pay increased by 3.2% in the quarter, as it slowed down from 3.6% the previous month, the ONS said. Analysts had a predicted that growth would only decline to 3.4%.

The slowdown was driven by growth rate of just 2.4% in October, as it reported the biggest monthly slump in bonus payments for more than five years.

The figures also revealed that job vacancies slid by 20,000 to 794,000, as the rate of decline continued to accelerate from the previous period.

Vacancies have now declined for 10 consecutive months and have fallen below 800,000 for the first time in more than two years.

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sajid Javid, said: “There’s talent up and down this country – three quarters of employment growth in the last year has been outside London and the South East.

“I’m looking forward to getting Brexit done and unleashing Britain’s potential, levelling up opportunity across the country.”