British unemployment is falling and the number of people in work has struck a record high, official data shows, boosting the government ahead of its latest budget announcement.
The number of unemployed fell by 63,000 people to 2.33 million in the three months to January, compared with the three months to October, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) announced in a statement.
Employment jumped to 30.19 million in the same period, which was the highest level since records began in 1971, it added.
The number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance fell in February to 1.17 million people in the 16th consecutive monthly reduction.
The bright labour market data, coupled with Britain’s strengthening economic recovery, sets the stage for British finance minister George Osborne’s annual budget due at 1230 GMT.
The ONS added on Wednesday that the unemployment rate held steady at 7.2 per cent in the quarter to January, from the three months to December.
The jobless rate is no longer linked to the Bank of England’s pledge to keep interest rates at record lows, after governor Mark Carney unveiled new forward guidance.
The central bank had previously pledged not to consider a rate rise until unemployment fell to at least 7.0 per cent.
However, the BoE tweaked its forward guidance policy after official data showed the unemployment rate had struck a near five-year low of 7.1 per cent in the three months to November.
Under the amended guidance, the BoE will seek to absorb all the spare capacity in the economy as it looks to keep inflation close to a government-set target of 2.0 per cent, before moving to hike its key lending rate.