The Office for National Statistics (ONS) released new figures on Wednesday showing a rise in average earnings of 3.7 per cent in the three months to February 2008. The figure was slightly lower than the 3.9 per cent rise recorded for the three months to January.

The ONS also said that the number of people claiming unemployment benefits was at its lowest since March 1975, with 1,200 coming off of unemployment benefits in March of this year. Overall 794,300 people were claiming unemployment benefits in March.

According to the figures the unemployment rate was 5.2 per cent in the first quarter of 2008, down 0.1 per cent on the previous quarter. Overall the number of unemployed people in the UK fell by 390,000 in the first three months of this year.