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UK unemployment falls to lowest since 2008

The U.K. labor market continued to recover over the summer, with unemployment falling to its lowest since the March to May period in 2008.

The unemployment rate stood at 5.4 percent for the three months to August, against 5.5 percent in the three months to July.

In a sign that the improving economy is increasingly reflected in people's pay, wages including bonuses grew 3 percent. A dip in consumer price inflation has also added to consumers' purchasing power.

Commuters at Canary Wharf underground tube station
Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Commuters at Canary Wharf underground tube station

Last week, the IMF raised its growth forecasts for the U.K. while slashing expectations for the global economy as a whole, on the back of concerns over emerging markets and China. It predicted U.K. growth of 2.5 percent in 2015, and 2.2 percent in 2016, revising its July forecast upwards. In fact, it highlighted the economy as a rare bright spot amid a gloomy global outlook.

The unemployment rate for the European Union (EU) as a whole stood at 9.5 percent of the economically active population for August 2015, the Office for National Statistics said, with the highest unemployment rates for Greece (25.2 percent for June 2015) and Spain (22.2 percent for August 2015. The lowest unemployment rate was for Germany (4.5 percent for August 2015).

Sterling rose against the dollar following the news. The Bank of England has said it is keeping a close eye on wage growth in considering when to hike interest rates.

"There does not seem much need for the MPC (Monetary Policy Committee) to panic about wage growth yet. Even if pay growth continues to pick up, this need not necessarily push the MPC into an early rate hike if it is accompanied by a recovery in productivity, which we still expect to see, Ruth Miller, U.K. economist at Capital Economics said in a note.

The research firm does not expect a rate rise before the second quarter of 2016.

Howard Archer, chief U.K. and European economist at IHS Global Insights said he expected the number of jobless to trend gradually down over the coming months, taking the unemployment rate down to 5.3 percent by the end of 2015, and to 5.0 percent by the end of 2016.

"While we expect growth will hold up relatively well over the rest of 2015 and during 2016, we suspect that the improvement in the labor market will be relatively gradual from now on as companies look to further lift productivity."

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