UK unemployment falls below 7 per cent as earnings growth outstrips inflation

LONDON - Britain's unemployment rate has fallen below 7 per cent for the first time in five years, with earnings growth narrowly outstripping inflation.

The Office for National Statistics said Wednesday that 2.24 million people were unemployed in the three months to February, a rate of 6.9 per cent. That compares with 7.2 per cent in the previous quarter.

Average earnings grew by 1.7 per cent in the year to February, exceeding the rate of inflation, which was 1.6 per cent at last count, in March. Stripping out bonuses, however, earnings growth was a more modest 1.4 per cent.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said the figures were evidence Britain's economic recovery was becoming "embedded."