According to figures released today by the Office for National Statistics (NAO), unemployment fell by 121,000 between December 2013 to February 2014 and 383,000 on a year ago.

The official unemployment rate now stands at 6.5%, down 1.3 points on the year, with 2.12 million now regarded as being out of work.

The number of people claiming the main unemployment benefit, Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), is down 418,000 in a year to 1.04 million. Figures also suggest that sickness benefits claims dropped by 25,000 to 485,000 in the year leading up to November 2013.

Figures show the UK employment rate rose by 254,000 on the previous quarter and 929,000 on the year. 30.64 million people were regarded as being ‘in work’ between March to May this year (2014) – an employment rate of 73.1%.

Wage growth continues to “lag behind inflation”. The latest statistics released today by the ONS show that average pay has increased by only 0.7% on this time last year, or just 0.3% excluding bonuses. This compares to the consumer price index (CPI) – the main measure used when calculating the cost of living (including food prices, housing costs and clothing) – which soared to a five-month high in June to 1.9%.

Both Labour and unions welcomed the drop in unemployment but say that the apparent rise in the number of people in work, coupled with lowest rise in wage growth since records began in 2001, show that Britain is working harder,.. but getting poorer.

Rachel Reeves MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said:

“While today’s fall in overall unemployment is welcome, the figures show pay increasing at 0.3 per cent falling far behind inflation. It’s clear working people still aren’t seeing signs of recovery in their pockets with the cost-of-living crisis leaving them over £1,600 a year worse off since 2010.

“Out-of-touch ministers are failing to stand up for people who work hard, do the right thing and contribute but are left struggling to make ends meet. A Labour Government would tackle the cost-of-living crisis by raising the minimum wage, getting more homes built, extending free childcare provision, freezing gas and electricity bills and getting the next generation into work with a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee.”

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“It’s good to see unemployment falling, but with pay growth falling to a record low, serious questions must be asked about the quality of jobs being created in Britain today.

“If all the recovery can deliver is low-paid, low-productivity jobs – many of which don’t offer enough hours to get by – then it will pass most working people by and Britain’s long-term economic prospects will be seriously diminished.”

Len McCluskey Unite general secretary said:

“Falling unemployment is welcome, but now is not the time to pop the champagne open. Behind these figures is a story of rising insecurity as self-employment soars to record levels while the assault on living standards continues as wages lag behind inflation.

“For many any sense of an economic recovery is simply passing them by as this government fosters a low paid, low skilled economy built on the back of precarious employment.

“We must always remember that the growing number of self-employed have no rights or protections, let alone a stable income.

“With wage growth at its lowest rate since 2001, while inflation continues to vastly outstrip wage rates, ordinary people are working harder and getting poorer. The Bank of England must put this to the fore when deciding interest rate levels.

“Too many people are living pay cheque to pay cheque and there is simply not the slack for additional demands on their incomes.”