LONDON — The number of people without jobs in Britain fell in December to its lowest in nearly eight years, the government said today.
Seasonally adjusted unemployment last month was 2.04 million, or 7.2% of the work force, down from 2.1 million or 7.5% in November.
At the same time, the Employment Department said average earnings in November rose a lower-than-expected 8.75% from 9% in October.
Economists said the slowdown in pay raises is an encouraging sign for Britain's finance minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson, in his fight to contain inflation.
"Clearly the figures are to be welcomed," said Bob Semple, an economist at Brokers County Natwest Woodmac.
He noted that the data followed retail sales figures for December issued Monday that pointed to a slowdown in consumer demand.
Inflation is running at an annual 6.4% and is expected to rise to 7% when new figures are announced Friday.