UK unemployment rate hits lowest since mid-2008

The U.K.unemployment rate fell to its lowest level since mid-2008 in the first quarter, official figures released on Wednesday showed.

The unemployment rate fell to 5.5 percent from 5.6 percent between January and March, the Office for National Statistics said. Meanwhile, the number of unemployed people fell by 35,000 in the first quarter to 1.83 million.

Total average weekly earnings rose 1.9 percent in the three months to March, compared with the same period the year before. That was up from 1.7 percent in February.

The data comes ahead of the release of the Bank of England's closely-watched inflation report later in the day. The central bank has said previously that labour costs are one thing it is following closely as it assesses the outlook for interest rates.

Sterling rose after the data, hitting a five-week high against the euro at 71.305 pence.

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