By Jonathan Davies

Unemployment in the UK fell 76,000 to 1.84 million in the three months to February, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The latest fall means the unemployment rate is now 5.6%, down from 5.7% in the three months to January. It is the lowest unemployment rate since July 2008.

The number of people in employment hit a new high, rising 248,000 to 31.049 million - the biggest quarterly increase since April 2014.

The ONS also said that the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance fell by 20,700 to 772,400 in March.

The growth of wages slowed down slightly, however. Average weekly pay, excluding bonuses, was up 1.8% compared with last year. It fell from 1.9% in January.

With inflation flat at zero, it means that wages are growing 1.8% faster than the cost of living.

Neil Carberry, CBI Director for Employment and Skills said: “It’s great to see 248,000 more people in work, the fastest rise in employment in just under a year — thanks to our flexible jobs market.

“With real wage growth rising people have a little more money in their pockets. But we need to see a recovery in productivity before wages can rise faster."

John Allan, national chair for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: “The latest fall in unemployment comes as no surprise as our research shows more small businesses are hiring compared with a year ago. 99 per cent of UK businesses are small firms, and it’s clear that supporting them is vital to boosting the UK economy. Small firms have also benefitted from steady low inflation, which has resulted in lower food and fuel prices, and supportive policies such as the Employment Allowance."