Britain’s booming labour market showed no signs of flagging at the start of 2019 as companies hired workers at the fastest pace for three years, defying predictions of a slowdown.

Employment rose by 220,000 in the three months ending in January, the biggest rise since November 2015 and far above analysts’ expectations of a 120,000 increase. This helped push the unemployment rate down to 3.9 per cent, the lowest rate since 1975.

Jobs growth has been the bright spot of the UK economy as companies have continued hiring workers even as they have cut back on investment.

January’s unexpected rise in jobs growth will be welcomed by economists as survey data, such as the purchasing managers’ indices produced by IHS Markit, had suggested that companies

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