Britain’s jobless rate unexpectedly fell in the three months to February and employment rose – a sign that UK companies are feeling more confident about hiring.
The National Statistics Office said the number of Britons without a job fell by 17,000 to 2.48 million. That is 7.8 percent of the workforce.
However, wage growth was weaker, which is bad news for squeezed households and highlights the still-fragile state of the UK economy.
It was the first fall in both the actual number of people out of work and the rate of unemployment since last September.
The figures will be welcome news to the British government, which is banking on the private sector to create jobs and help fill the gap created by public spending cuts.
The number of those in employment also rose by 143,000 in the three months to February — the biggest increase since last September and driven by the largest rise in the number of people in full-time employment since May 2007.
The number of Britons claiming unemployment benefit ticked higher in March, but those figures were still skewed by a recent change in the rules for counting single parents, the statistics office said.