LONDON: Britain's declining trend in joblessness continued through the three months ending 31 January, according to the Office for National Statistics, down by 32,000 to 1.61 million.

In the same period, average earnings rose – albeit at a slightly slower pace – to an annual rate of 3.7%.

Economists and politicians alike are keeping a close watch on unemployment numbers to see if the impact of the credit crunch is filtering through to the wider national economy.

Observes Investec chief economist Philip Shaw: "Broadly speaking the labour market situation is consistent with trends in previous months.

"In particularl, average earnings growth remains very subdued despite high headline rates of inflation. The labour market is still not a threat."

Data sourced from BBC Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff