British unemployment drops to 2.51 million: official data
British unemployment fell in the three months to the end of April, official data showed on Wednesday in an encouraging sign of the improving economic outlook despite poor wages growth.
The number of unemployed people slid by 5,000 to 2.51 million in the quarter starting in February compared with the three months to the end of January, the Office for National Statistics said in a statement.
The ONS added that Britain's unemployment rate stood at 7.8 percent in the same period.
That was unchanged from the three months to January, but was down 0.4 percentage points from the level 12 months earlier.
At the same time, the total number of Britons in employment rose to a record of 29.756 million people.
Those claiming jobless benefits meanwhile slid 8,600 in May to 1.51 million. Analysts had forecast a lighter drop of 5,000 people.
"The latest labour market data are broadly encouraging and modestly helpful to future growth prospects," said economist Howard Archer at consultancy IHS Global Insight.
"A renewed rise in employment and falling unemployment on both measures indicate that the economy's recent improvement has helped."
The data also showed that the number of over-65s in employment hit a record one million people.
On a more downbeat note, the ONS revealed that wage growth in Britain remained close to historic low levels.
Earnings excluding bonuses grew by 0.9 percent in the three months to April. That compared with a 0.8-percent increase in the three months to March -- which was the lowest growth rate since records began in 2001.
Britain's 12-month inflation stood at 2.4 percent in April, meaning that the increase in workers' wages did not keep pace with rising living costs.
"The recovery in the wider economy already appears to be filtering through to the labour market, although activity is still looking weaker than a few months ago and real pay continues to fall sharply," said economist Vicky Redwood at research group Capital Economics.
Britain's recovery appears to be firming slightly in recent months. The economy grew by 0.3 percent in the first quarter of 2013, after shrinking 0.3 percent in the previous quarter.
© 2013 AFP