Number in work hits all-time high

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The Independent Online

The number of people in work hit a fresh all-time high and the jobless total fell as businesses shunned mounting fears for the global economy to take on more staff, official figures showed yesterday.

The number of people in work hit a fresh all-time high and the jobless total fell as businesses shunned mounting fears for the global economy to take on more staff, official figures showed yesterday.

An extra 57,000 joined the workforce over the three months to January to take the employment level to 27.82 million, the highest for at least 19 years. Over the same period the unemployment level fell by 73,000 to 1.46 million. However, the number of people out of work and claiming benefit – the claimant count – rose 2,600 in February.

The Office for National Statistics said the increase in employment was entirely made up of full-time posts, defying speculation that the new jobs being created were in poorly paid part-time roles.

There was also a surprise from industry data that showedemployment grew in every sector of the economy apart from manufacturing and transport. Employment in financial and business services rose 13,000 while hotels and caterers took on an extra 28,000 people over the three months to December. The largest increase was in the public sector, which took on 37,000, reflecting the increase in government spending.

Joe Slavin, managing director of Monster.co.uk, a recruitment website, said the labour market was holding up and showing resilience. "We've seen a surge in hiring activity in areas such as sales, information technology and administrative services," he said.

Despite the strong labour market, there was little sign of a large pick-up in wage levels. Growth in average earnings slowed to 3.6 per cent in January from 3.5 per cent in the previous month, despite a surge in public pay deals. Pay in the state sector rose 5.0 per cent while private sector earnings growth slowed to 3.2 per cent.

Ross Walker, at Royal Bank of Scotland, said: "The benign nature of overall earnings growth is remarkable given the ongoing tightness of the labour market."

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