THE number of workers on company payrolls in Swindon has increased but is still below pre-pandemic levels.

UK unemployment has dropped to its lowest figure in 50 years but soaring prices are still hitting the pockets of people across the nation as earnings fail to keep up with inflation.

Office for National Statistics data shows 113,106 people in Swindon were in payrolled employment in March, which is up from 112,949 the month before, and from 110,634 in March 2021.

At the start of the pandemic, 114,723 people were in payrolled jobs in the area.

Different figures show that across the UK, the unemployment rate hit 3.8 per cent in the three months to February – it has not been lower than this since 1974.

And there has been a fall in the number of people claiming unemployment benefits in the Swindon area over the last year, with around 5,465 people on out-of-work benefits as of March 10, which is down by 2,695 from 8,160 at the same point the year before.

It meant 3.9 per cent of the area's working population sought support in March.

The figures include those aged 16 to 64 on Jobseeker’s Allowance and some Universal Credit claimants who are unemployed and seeking work or employed but with low earnings.

The ONS said real pay was now "falling noticeably", with regular wages excluding bonuses tumbling 1.8 per cent after inflation in the three months to February - the steepest decline in almost nine years.

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, said the Chancellor of the Exchequer has done little to help families.

"By holding down pay in the public sector and cutting Universal Credit, he has made the crisis worse," said Ms O'Grady.

"Families need help now. Whoever is Chancellor tomorrow should go to Parliament with an emergency budget to help with surging energy bills and to get wages rising."

Jack Leslie, senior economist at the Resolution Foundation, said: "The sheer scale of this inflation-led squeeze of living standards makes it all the more remarkable how little support the Chancellor provided in his spring statement".

Mr Sunak highlighted the £22 billion in support that the government is providing in 2022-23.

Employment minister Mims Davies added the government is "doing everything we can to help", including supporting people in moving into better paid, higher skilled work and increasing the National Living and Minimum Wage.