There has been an increase in the pace of payroll rises for South West businesses according to official statistics.
Pay excluding bonuses rose by 2.8%, which was the highest pace since February 2009.
The ONS figures showed there were 30.98 million people in work in the March-to-May quarter. That was down 67,000 from the previous three month period and the first quarterly fall since April 2013.
The employment rate was highest in the South West of the country, at 77.4%, and lowest in Northern Ireland, at 67.9%, according to the ONS.
Compared with the same period a year earlier, there were 265,000 more people in work, with 272,000 more people working full-time and 7,000 fewer people working part-time.
“It’s possible that the rate of improvement in the labour market that we have seen over the last three years may have eased off, though it is too early to be certain,” said ONS statistician Nick Palmer.
The UK unemployment total has risen for the first time in two years, according to the Office for National Statistics.
The ONS said 1.85 million people were unemployed in the March-to-May period, an increase of 15,000 from the previous quarter, with the jobless rate at 5.6%.
The number of people claiming unemployment-related benefit in June rose by 7,000 to 804,200.
Despite the rise in the jobless total, the UK’s Work and Pensions Minister, Priti Patel, said there were jobs out there.
“When you look at the strength of the UK labour market – through the reforms we brought in in the last parliament and now as well we’re continuing to implement – we are seeing a lot of growth in the economy, and at the same time, wages are increasing, but vacancies are still at over 700,000, so there are jobs out there in the labour market and vacancies are there,” Ms Patel said.
The latest figures have added to the debate about when the Bank of England will raise interest rates from their record low of 0.5%.
The Bank’s of Englands’ governor, Mark Carney, said the point at which rates might rise was “moving closer”.
Rising unemployment is usually seen as making the prospect of a rate rise less likely, but the Bank will also be keeping an eye on the acceleration in pay rises.
The unemployment figures are based on the Labour Force Survey, in which the ONS speaks to 60,000 households once a quarter, making it the country’s biggest household survey.
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