LONDON (Reuters) - The number of Britons claiming unemployment benefit fell unexpectedly and employment rose to a record high, official data showed on Wednesday, defying the prevailing economic weakness.
The Office for National Statistics said the number of people claiming jobless benefit fell by 4,000 last month. Analysts had forecast an unchanged reading after a sharp fall in August, which — as the ONS said — was possibly helped by hiring for the London Olympics.
The number of people without a job on the wider ILO measure dropped by 50,000 in the three months to August to 2.528 million.
The ILO jobless rate stood at 7.9 percent, compared with forecasts for 8.1 percent.
The employment level rose to 29.590 million, the highest since records began in January-March 1971.
Average weekly earnings growth including bonuses accelerated to 1.7 percent in the three months to August versus forecasts for an annual 1.6 percent rise. Excluding bonuses, pay grew by 2 percent in line with expectations.
However, pay growth is still lagging inflation, which slowed to 2.2 percent in September.
The government has been relying on private companies to create enough jobs to make up for layoffs in the public sector, which are part of its plans to erase a huge budget deficit.
The latest official statistics are at odds with recent surveys of purchasing managers that have pointed to signs of weakness in the so far resilient labour market. Services firms shed jobs last month for the first time since November 2011, while employment in manufacturing also fell.
Reporting by Olesya Dmitracova and Peter Griffiths