British official unemployment rate drops to 6.8%

LONDON (AFP) - The British unemployment rate has fallen to a five-year low point of 6.8 per cent, official data showed on Wednesday, as the economic recovery gathers strength.

The rate for the January-March period compares with 6.9 per cent for the three months to the end of February, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a statement.

The ONS added that the number of unemployed fell by 133,000 people to 2.21 million between January and March

Employment surged to 30.43 million - which was the highest level since records began in 1971.

Meanwhile, the number of people claiming jobseeker's allowance fell in April to 1.12 million people.

"The latest UK labour market figures show that the economic recovery is still creating jobs at an extremely rapid pace," said Capital Economics analyst Samuel Tombs.

"Employment rose by 283,000 over the three months to March. This was enough to reduce the unemployment rate to 6.8 per cent."

British unemployment remains far lower than in other parts of the EU, where many rates are at record levels.

Wednesday's data was published ahead of the Bank of England's latest quarterly economic forecasts.