THE number of people in work now stands at a record high, fuelled by increased self-employment.

More than 30.4 million people are now working, the highest since records began in 1971.

Self-employment has reached 4.5 million, figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed.

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The number of people working for themselves jumped by 183,000 in the quarter to March, compared with a rise of 375,000 over the past year.

Unemployment has fallen by 133,000 to 2.2 million, the lowest for five years, giving a jobless rate of 6.8 per cent.

The report added average earnings increased by 1.7 per cent in the year to March, slightly ahead of the latest CPI inflation rate of 1.6 per cent.

Employment Minister Esther McVey said: "As the recovery takes hold, more people are able to get a job or set up their own business and become the employers of tomorrow."

However, Paul Kenny, GMB general secretary, warned more needs to be done.

He said: "There is a very long way to go to climb out of the hole caused by the recession.

"There is a growing recognition that, as a result of demographic factors, GDP per head is still 5.8 per cent below 2007 levels.

"The pay of the bottom half of the workforce is still being squeezed."