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Britain's unemployment rate slides to 7.1%

Britain's unemployment dropped faster-than-expected to a rate of 7.1 percent in the three months to the end of November, official data showed on Wednesday, further highlighting the nation's economic recovery.

LONDON: Britain's unemployment dropped faster-than-expected to a rate of 7.1 percent in the three months to the end of November, official data showed on Wednesday, further highlighting the nation's economic recovery.

It fell from a rate of 7.4 percent in the quarter through to the end of October, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a statement. That was the lowest level for nearly five years, or since it stood at 6.8 percent in February 2009.

The Bank of England, under governor Mark Carney, has stated that it will consider raising its key interest rate from a record-low 0.50 percent once the unemployment rate falls to seven percent.

"The unemployment rate for September to November 2013 was 7.1 percent of the economically active population," the ONS said in a statement.

But wages growth remained muted at 0.9 percent in the three months to November, helping to keep a lid on inflation and in turn a need to raise interest rates.

On Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund said it expected Britain's economy to grow by 2.4 percent this year, up from an estimate of 1.9 percent given in October.

The IMF now expects Britain to be among the fastest growing of the world's advanced economies during 2014, handing a major boost to British finance minister George Osborne's deficit-slashing austerity policies.

Separately on Wednesday, the Bank of England said that its policymakers had voted unanimously two weeks ago to maintain its main interest rate at 0.50 percent and to keep the level of stimulus pumping around the economy at £375 billion ($620 billion, 458 billion euros).

Minutes of its January policy meeting noted that "the unemployment rate was now likely to reach the seven percent threshold materially earlier than previously had been expected" by the bank.

But the BoE also cautioned that it saw "no immediate need to raise Bank Rate even if the seven percent unemployment threshold were to be reached in the near future".

Its policymakers noted that "it was likely that the headwinds to growth associated with the aftermath of the financial crisis would persist for some time yet and that inflationary pressures would remain contained.

"Consequently when the time did come to raise Bank Rate, it would be appropriate to do so only gradually," the minutes added. 

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