UK unemployment at lowest rate in 42 years

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Average weekly earnings excluding bonuses grew by a lower than expected 2.1% in the three months to March, the Office for National Statistics said - down from 2.2%.

The unemployment rate in the January-March period unexpectedly fell to its lowest level in almost 42 years at 4.6 percent.

"With yesterday's inflation figures showing CPI at 2.7 percent and expected to rise even further, prices are likely to outpace wage growth, tightening the squeeze on United Kingdom households".

The ONS said workers' total earnings including bonuses rose by an annual 2.4 per cent in the first quarter of 2017, edging up from growth of 2.3 per cent in the three months to February and in line with the forecast in the Reuters poll of economists.

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Separately, Wednesday's ONS data provided some relief for employers who have said they are anxious that migrant workers are being discouraged from coming to Britain because of the fall in the value of the pound since the Brexit vote and uncertainty about their future status in the country.

Rising prices for clothing, electricity and airfares contributed to the increase.

The unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent, the lowest since 1975.

"An astonishing rise in United Kingdom employment isn't enough to mask the fall in real wages", James Smith at ING told the Financial Times. The three-month on three-month average came in well above consensus, at 122,000, lifted by a huge 340,000 "single month" increase in jobs - the highest in two years.

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The number of non-UK nationals working in this country increased by 207,000 to a record 3.5 million between January and March. However, ING also expressed concern that the fall in real wages could prevent an interest rate rise before 2019. Despite inflation pushing past its 2 percent target, the BoE says it has seen no sign of a permanent spike in prices fuelled by higher wages. Wages are rising at a slower rate than the cost of living.

The Bank said in its inflation report last week that inflation would peak at 3 per cent later this year, as the pound's slump causes prices to rise. But even with employers hiring at the fastest pace since last year's European Union referendum shock, the pace of wage growth slowed.

Among 16 to 24 year olds, the unemployment rate was down from 13.7 per cent of March 2016, to 12.5 per cent.

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