The number of UK workers on payrolls has risen to a record 29.7 million, according to new official figures.
The ONS also estimated unemployment levels had fallen to levels predating the Covid pandemic for the first time, with 1.34 million without jobs in the quarter running to January - down by 200,000 in the three-month period before the UK first went into lockdown.
The latest figures analysed the UK’s labour market as a whole, also finding a record number of job vacancies - 1,318,000 - last month.
The employment rate was more than 75 per cent, while unemployment stood at just below 4 per cent.
Grant Fitzner, chief economist at the Office for National Statistics (ONS), said the market continued to recover from the effects of the Covid pandemic, which was reflected in unemployment levels and the number of payroll employees.
“However, the number of people out of work and not looking for a job rose again, meaning total employment remained well below its pre-pandemic level,” he added.
“We have seen yet another record number of job vacancies, and with the redundancy rate falling to a new record low, demand for workers remains strong.
“Because bonuses have continued at high levels for some workers, total earnings growth just kept ahead of rising prices over the past year, though regular pay has dropped again in real terms.”
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “Thanks to the unprecedented economic support we’ve provided, we’ve now seen a year of falling unemployment and a stronger jobs market bounce back than so many predicted.”
Mims Davies, the minister for employment, said:“These ONS figures show unemployment remains low, below pre-pandemic levels for the first time, and employment is continuing to grow, providing a stable foundation as new global challenges emerge.”
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