The unemployment rate has unexpectedly risen to its highest level for two and a half years, official figures show.

The rate climbed to 4.4% in February to April this year, up from the previous figure of 4.3% and the highest since September 2021.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) also said there was another increase in the inactivity rate, with 22.3% of working age people deemed not to be actively looking for work.

Wage growth remained strong, with regular pay rising at an annual pace of 6%.

Earnings are continuing to increase faster than inflation, the rate at which prices rise.

“This month’s figures continue to show signs that the labour market may be cooling, with the number of vacancies still falling and unemployment rising, though earnings growth remains relatively strong,” the ONS said.

Economists were expecting an uptick in pay rises but expected the unemployment rate to stay the same.

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