Unemployment falls to 3.8%

The unemployment rate in the UK has fallen to its lowest rate in nearly 45 years, at 3.8%.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that from January to March 2019, an estimated 1.3 million people were unemployed, while 37.2m were in employment.

The last time the unemployment rate was lower, at 3.7%, was during the three-month period from October to December 1974.

Tej Parikh, senior economist at the Institute of Directors, said:

"The labour market remains in fine fettle, and continues to break new ground.

"Businesses have steadfastly expanded their workforce while the fog of uncertainty clouds longer-term investment decisions.

"After a long period of relentless hiring, however, the momentum behind employment growth appears to be slowing as there are fewer workers available to fill skyrocketing vacancies."

A separate report from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) showed that vacancies in town centres increased to 10.2% in April 2019, while footfall declined by 0.5%.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive at the BRC, said:

"With regular reports of shop closures, it may come as no surprise that town centre vacancy rates rose to their highest level in four years.

"Empty shopfronts, particularly for larger stores, can deter shoppers from an area, decreasing footfall for all those around."

She added that costs like business rates and the apprenticeship levy were putting pressure on many high street retailers.

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