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Jobless total falls to lowest for 10 years

A record number of people are in work following another fall in unemployment to rates not seen for a decade, new figures show.

More than 31.8 million adults are in a job - 300,000 more than a year ago - after a quarterly rise of 37,000, while unemployment fell by 7,000 to just under 1.6 million.

That figure is the lowest since the start of 2006, giving a jobless rate of 4.8%, one of the lowest in Europe.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that the number of people on the so-called claimant count fell by 42,400 in January to 745,000, the biggest monthly fall since the autumn of 2013.

ONS said the claimant count figures were likely to be volatile because of the complexities of rolling out Universal Credit, which was launched in 2013 to replace a number of benefits, including Jobseeker's Allowance.

Average earnings increased by 2.6% in the year to December, 0.2% down on the previous month.

Other figures showed that the number of non-UK nationals working in this country increased by 233,000 to 3.48 million between October to December 2015 and the same quarter last year.

Non-UK nationals from the EU increased by 190,000 to 2.24 million while those from outside the EU increased by 42,000 to 1.24 million.

The proportion of people working in the UK accounted for by non-UK nationals has increased from 3.8% to 10.9% since 1997.

ONS senior statistician David Freeman said: "Continued moderate growth in employment has led to a new high in the total employment rate, while the rate for women has reached 70% for the first time on record.

"Overall, the labour market appears to be edging towards full capacity."

The number of people classed as economically inactive has fallen by 31,000 to 8.8 million, a rate of 21% of the working population.

The figure includes students, people looking after a relative, on long-term sick leave, taken early retirement or who have given up looking for work.

The number of people in full-time work has increased by 218,000 over the past year to 23 million, while part-time employment has risen by 84,000 to 8.5 million.

The UK's employment rate of 74.6% is the highest since records began in 1971.

Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green said: "With employment at its highest rate since records began, and unemployment at its lowest in over a decade, we remain in a position of strength.

"Our ongoing welfare reforms will continue to incentivise work and make sure the system is fair to all those who need it and those who pay for it.

"With youth unemployment down, women in work at record levels and number of disabled people in work increasing too, we're delivering on our pledge to build a country that works for everyone."

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