UK Jobless Claimant Count Falls Sharply in April

A job seeker (R) shakes hands with a recruiter.
Getty Images
A job seeker (R) shakes hands with a recruiter.

The number of Britons claiming unemployment benefit fell much more than expected in April, official data showed on Wednesday, in the latest sign that the economy is starting to find its feet.

The Office for National Statistics said the number of people claiming jobless benefit dropped by 7,300 last month, compared with analysts' forecasts for a dip of 3,000 from March. The jobless rate - at 4.5 percent - hit the lowest since April 2011.

The figures were released an hour before the Bank of England publishes its quarterly Inflation Report and add to a recent run of better-than-expected data on the economy.

The central bank is expected to revise down its inflation projections and say that economic growth will be at least as strong as it forecast in February.

Policymakers have refrained from injecting fresh stimulus into the economy in the form of quantitative easing this year and focused their efforts on initiatives to boost lending to households and businesses.

However, the number of people without a job on the wider ILO measure grew by 15,000 in the three months to March to 2.518 million. The ILO jobless rate eased to 7.8 percent, confounding forecasts for a steady reading of 7.9 percent.

Employment has also come at the expense of pay rises.

Average weekly earnings growth including bonuses more than halved to 0.4 percent in the three months through March on the annual measure - the slowest rate since September-November 2009 and well short of forecasts.

Excluding bonuses, pay grew by a record-low 0.8 percent.