UK jobless rate sees surprise drop

Britain's jobless rate unexpectedly fell in the three months to January.

Although the change partly reflected people giving up their job hunt amid lockdown measures.

The main jobless rate dropped to 5% for the period.

A Reuters poll had forecast a small rise to 5.2%.

None of the economists polled had expected a fall.

Part of the drop in the headline unemployment rate was due to high jobless numbers for October dropping out of the three-monthly figures.

The drop also reflected an increase in the proportion of the potential workforce classed as 'inactive'.

That includes students, parents looking after their children full time and people who have temporarily given up looking for work.

Since January non-essential shops and scores of businesses have been closed in England.

With similar measures in other parts of the United Kingdom.

Last month the government extended furlough support - which currently pays the wages of one in five employees - until the end of September.

Without that, Britain's jobless rate would be far higher.

A rapid roll-out of vaccinations has sharply reduced new infections in the UK.

Shops are due to reopen next month, but restrictions on hospitality will remain until at least late June.