By Jonathan Davies

The number of people in unemployment in the UK fell by 108,000 to 1.86 million, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

During the period, 73.3% of working age (16-64) people were in employment, up from 72.1% a year earlier. It is the highest employment rate on record. Similarly, the ONS said that the unemployment rate for the three month period was 5.7%, down strongly from 7.2% a year earlier.

The figures also show that the number of people claiming jobseeker's allowance fell 31,000 to 791,200.

Average pay grew by 1.8% during the three months to January. That is down 0.3% on the previous month, but record low inflation of 0.3% in January means that wages are still comfortably growing in real-terms.

Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: "The highest employment rate in our history is not a dry fact, it means more people with the security of a pay packet and a brighter future."

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: "This is a remarkable set of figures, which underlines this government’s success in backing businesses to create jobs, and supporting British people to seize those opportunities.

"As a country we should be proud that there are now record numbers of people in work, record numbers of job vacancies available, and the lowest unemployment rate since 2008."

Business secretary Vince Cable said: "With almost three quarters of working age people now in work, we have achieved the highest rate of employment in the UK since records began."

And with the general election around the corner, Mr Cable added: "This is a sign that the long term decisions the Liberal Democrats have taken in government have created a more resilient economy. But we have also created a fairer economy with everyone sharing in the fruits of our recovery."

The ONS also showed a 33,000 increase in the number of people taking their career into their own hands and becoming self-employed. It's something that Chris Bryce, Chief Executive of IPSE (Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed), says will give George Osborne a boost on Budget day.

Mr Bryce said: “More and more people are waking up to the benefits of self-employment and opting to become their own boss. Today’s figures show the number of the UK’s self-employed continues to rise, with a 33,000 increase year-on-year.

“Self-employment has been crucial to the economic recovery. Since the Coalition took office in 2010, self-employment has accounted for one third of employment growth. We hope the Chancellor will acknowledge this remarkable growth and the vital importance of this sector of the labour market to the UK economy.”