* Jobless rate fell to 6.6 pct from February to April
* The number of people in employment surges by record
* Pay growth slows from last year
(Adds more data, comment)
By Ana Nicolaci da Costa and William Schomberg
LONDON, June 11 Britain's labour market recovery
gathered speed as a record number of people found work and drove
unemployment to its lowest level in more than five years in the
three months to April.
Pay growth slowed sharply but the Office for National
Statistics suggested it was largely a blip after the April 2013
figure was boosted by delayed bonus payments.
Nonetheless, some economists said the weak earnings figures
suggested that Britain's jobs recovery could carry on without
pushing up inflation.
The Bank of England says there is room for further growth in
the economy before it raises interest rates although some of its
policymakers have started to say they see a growing case for a
"With few signs still that the labour market is a source of
inflationary pressure, we still think the Monetary Policy
Committee can afford to keep interest rates on hold until well
into next year," said Samuel Tombs at Capital Economics.
Sterling ticked higher and British government bond prices
briefly hit a two-month low after the data.
The jobless rate fell to 6.6 percent between February and
April - its lowest since the three months through January 2009.
That was down from 6.8 percent in the first three months of this
year and below the 6.7 percent rate expected in a Reuters poll.
British Prime Minister David Cameron used the numbers to
further his case that the Conservative Party deserves to win
another term in elections next May and he rounded on Ed
Miliband, the leader of the opposition Labour party in
"He is absolutely allergic to good news because he knows
that as the economy gets stronger, he gets weaker," Cameron said
to cheers from his lawmakers. Miliband did not comment.
The number of people in employment surged by 345,000 to
30.535 million in the three months through April - the biggest
increase since records began in 1971 - surpassing the previous
biggest gain of 283,000 seen last month.
The ONS said that the rise in employment was due mainly to
people being hired by companies rather than becoming
self-employed as has been the case in recent months.
The BoE is looking at a broad measure of how much spare
capacity there is in the economy with a focus on the labour
market as it considers when to start raising interest rates from
a record low of 0.5 percent.
A plunge in unemployment forced the Bank earlier this year
to change the original version of its so-called forward guidance
policy under which it ruled out considering a rate hike until
unemployment fell to 7 percent.
Wages overtook inflation in the first quarter of 2014,
easing some of the pressure on households which have seen
incomes squeezed in recent years. Pay growth lagged inflation
for most of the period since 2008.
Living standards have become a key political background
ahead of next year's national elections.
In the three months through April, total pay including
bonuses rose a yearly 0.7 percent, slowing from 1.9 percent in
the three months to March. In the month of April alone, total
pay fell by 1.7 percent compared with the same month last year.
Economists had expected pay growth to slow because last year
the figure was boosted by companies delaying payments of bonuses
until April to help their staff benefit from a cut in the top
rate of income tax to 45 percent from 50 percent.
Excluding bonuses, pay rose by an annual 0.9 percent in the
three months through April - again, slowed by a strong figure in
April 2013 - and by 0.4 percent in April alone.
Both readings of pay growth in the three months through
April were weaker than forecast in a Reuters poll.
The labour market's strength has raised questions about how
long the BoE can refrain from raising interest rates, as it
tries to avoid hurting a recovery which was slow to take hold
compared with other major economies. The BoE has indicated rates
could rise in the second quarter of 2015.
Economists said the weakness of wages in Wednesday's jobs
data - even taking the bonus distortion into account - could
help the Bank to keep on providing stimulus to the economy.
"A rate hike before the end of the year just suffered a big
blow," said Alan Clarke, head of fixed income at Scotiabank in
(Editing by James Macharia)