Employment at highest level since records began

Unemployment rate heads below 4 per cent for the first time since 1975

The unemployment rate has fallen below 4% for the first time since 1975, according to official figures.

The labour market survey said average earnings increased by 3.4 per cent in the year to January, down by 0.1 per cent on the previous month but still outpacing inflation.

'The unemployment rate has also fallen below 4 per cent for the first time since early 1975'.

"2019 has continued to be a record-breaker, with the employment rate topping 76 per cent for the first time, record female employment, and unemployment falling below four per cent for the first time in 44 years".

The number unemployed in the region has remained unchanged at 149,000 for the three months to January, a rate of 5.1 per cent of the working population.

The number of economically inactive people in the country is at its lowest ever recorded, at 8.55 million, or 20.7%.

Turning to job vacancies, for the period from December 2018 to February 2019 there were an estimated 854,000 vacancies in the United Kingdom, 39,000 more than a year earlier. This was the largest increase in the number of employed women since the period February-to-April 2014.

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"These record-breaking jobs numbers seem extraordinary and suggest that only a recession-inducing hard Brexit is likely to have a noticeably negative impact on the UK's employment situation".

The government welcomed the figures and employment minister Alok Sharma urged MPs to back Theresa May's Brexit deal to provide businesses with clarity.

The surprising resilience of the labour market and the subsequent rise in wage growth, plus a fall in inflation, are cushioning the Brexit uncertainty for many households, whose spending drives the economy.

Simon Harvey, FX Market Analyst at Monex Europe said, "Sterling rallied briefly as the ONS data was released prematurely and signalled that the United Kingdom labour market remains resistant to Brexit uncertainty, for now".

"As a result, if there is a long delay to Brexit or a deal is struck, we suspect the [Bank of England's] Monetary Policy Committee will raise interest rates this summer".

The Bank of England has also previously warned that firms might be opting to hire workers rather than making expensive investments in machinery and technology in the face of Brexit uncertainty.

"To build on the current strength in United Kingdom employment, employers will want to avoid a disorderly withdrawal from the European Union and will above all be urging policymakers to return some much-needed oxygen to the skills and productivity agenda".

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