Government hails record employment
The Government has hailed an "important milestone" after figures showed record employment and another huge fall in the numbers out of work.
More than 30 million people are in a job, an increase of almost one million over the past year, the best figures since records began in 1971, while u nemployment has fallen by 121,000 to 2.12 million, the lowest since the end of 2009.
Prime Minister David Cameron told the Commons that 1.8 million more people were in work than when the coalition came to power.
"That is a record to be proud of," he said. "We have reached an important milestone, with more people in work than ever before in our history."
Business leaders said the figures showed the resilience of the labour market, proving that the economic recovery was well under way.
But unions pointed to other figures showing that average earnings increased by just 0.3% in the year to May - the lowest since 2009 - saying "serious questions" had to be asked about the quality of jobs being created.
Other figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that the number of people claiming jobseeker's allowance fell by 36,300 in June to 1.04 million, the 20th consecutive monthly fall and the lowest total since 2008.
More than 4.5 million people were self-employed, the highest since records began in 1992, after an increase of 404,000 over the past year.
Long-term and youth unemployment have both continued to fall and t here was a drop in the number of people in a part-time job wanting full-time work - down by 61,000 to 1.3 million.
Job vacancies were up by 30,000 to 648,000, an increase of more than 100,000 on a year ago, but 48,000 fewer than the pre-recession peak at the start of 2008.
Employment Minister Esther McVey said: "With one of the highest employment rates ever, it's clear that the Government's long-term economic plan to help businesses create jobs and get people working again is the right one.
"With an employment rate which has never been higher, record women in work and more young people in jobs, the resilience of the country during the downturn is being rewarded. We know there is more to do, and the best way to do so is to go on delivering a plan that's creating growth and jobs."
Business Secretary Vince Cable said the figures were " remarkable", adding: "In the past 12 months alone, employment has increased by close to a million, the largest annual increase on record. This has led to a record share of the UK working age population being in work.
"The recovery in the labour market has been broad based, with employment rising for young people, older workers, men, women, employees, self-employed, part-time workers, full-time workers, and across the country."
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "It's good to see unemployment falling, but with pay growth falling to a record low, serious questions must be asked about the quality of jobs being created in Britain today.
"If all the recovery can deliver is low-paid, low-productivity jobs - many of which don't offer enough hours to get by - then it will pass most working people by and Britain's long-term economic prospects will be seriously diminished."
David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "These impressive employment figures highlight the resilience and flexibility of the UK labour market. Unemployment is now at its lowest rate since before the recession, which shows that the recovery really is gaining momentum.
"The case for not raising interest rates prematurely is strengthened further by weakening wage growth."
Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary, said: "Falling unemployment is welcome, but now is not the time to pop the champagne open. Behind these figures is a story of rising insecurity as self-employment soars to record levels while the assault on living standards continues as wages lag behind inflation.
"For many any sense of an economic recovery is simply passing them by as this Government fosters a low paid, low skilled economy built on the back of precarious employment. We must always remember that the growing number of self-employed have no rights or protections, let alone a stable income."
Neil Carberry, the CBI's director for employment and skills, said: "This is another really strong quarter for the UK labour market, with employment growing and the unemployment rate falling to its lowest level since 2008, led by full-time jobs. It's particularly encouraging to see youth unemployment continuing to come down but there's still more to do.
"Pay growth is still sluggish, although other surveys suggest a more positive picture. Looking ahead, we expect productivity to pick up, and wages should follow suit."
Mr Cameron and Ms McVey later visited the Brompton Bicycle factory in west London to speak to production line staff, who have grown in number from 157 to 216 in the past 12 months.
The foldable bicycle manufacturer has become accustomed to visits from high-profile politicians, as a regularly quoted example of a small, thriving British business.
The Prime Minister said the growth of employment under the coalition was not just a statistic but represented "real families".
"That is 1.8 million more families where someone is able to earn a living and actually provide for their families and have that security and stability that people so badly want and that I want for British families," he said.
"Of course we need to do more to help people by continuing to bring down the cost of government and people's taxes. That's what we have done and what we must continue to do as part of our long-term economic plan."