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UK unemployment continues to fall as hiring booms

U.K. unemployment continued to fall in the three months to April, hitting its lowest level since 2009, as hiring boomed.

The jobless rate slid to 6.6 percent, from 6.8 percent in the first quarter, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said on Wednesday. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected a fall to 6.7 percent.

The data marks more good news for the U.K. economy, which is powering ahead, and could lead to more calls for the Bank of England to raise interest rates sooner rather than later.

Alex Segre | Getty Images

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The number of people in work increased by 345,000 to 30.54 million people between February and April 2014. This surge in employment marks the biggest increase since records began in 1971, according to Reuters.

Pay grew less than forecast over the three months, however. Including bonuses, average weekly earnings expanded by 0.7 percent year-on-year, down from 1.9 percent in the three months to March. This was below the 1.2 percent expected by analysts, although the ONS said delayed bonus payments had boosted last year's figure.

Pay growth excluding bonuses, meanwhile, rose 0.9 percent. Both figures remain significantly below inflation, which came in at 1.8 percent in April.

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Last week, the Bank of England opted to leave interest rates and asset purchases unchanged at its monetary policy meeting, although continued signs of a strengthening recovery add weight to the argument that interest rates should rise.

Investec economist Philip Shaw said the data could lead to concerns at the Bank of England about the pace at which the labor market is tightening, and any inflationary pressures that could come about as a result.

"Certainly what we're looking at is another sharp unexpected fall in the jobless rate – that's good news in itself. But what it may do is make the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee a bit more jittery," he told CNBC.

"The bottom line is that the Bank of England may become a little but more inclined to think about an early rate rise."


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