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UK unemployment dips to lowest rate since 1975

By AFP/Nicholas Kamm   May 17, 2017 | 02:34 am PT
In the first three months of the year, 1.54 million people were recorded as unemployed.

Britain's unemployment rate has dipped to 4.6 percent, the lowest level for 42 years, official data showed on Wednesday, three weeks before a general election.

However wage growth has been weak, dampening expectations for a rise in the Bank of England's main interest rate any time soon.

The unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent in the three months to the end of March from 4.7 percent in the quarter ending in February, the Office for National Statistics said in a statement.

In the first three months of the year, 1.54 million people were recorded as unemployed, down 152,000 year-on-year, the ONS added.

The number in employment meanwhile surged by 122,000 to a record high of almost 32 million people, the ONS added.

"An astonishing rise in U.K. employment isn't enough to mask the fall in real wages," said ING bank economist James Smith.

"This already appears to be dampening consumption, and is why we don't expect a U.K. rate hike before 2019."

British inflation hit a 3.5-year high in April, official data showed Tuesday. The Consumer Price Index rallied to 2.7 percent from a rate of 2.3 percent in March.

The Bank of England blames recent rises in U.K. inflation mainly on a 16-percent fall in sterling since Britain's referendum last year to leave the European Union.

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