THE rate of employment in the North-East is the lowest in the UK, according to new figures.

Employment across the UK hit a record high with the number of people in work rising by 31,000 to 32.78 million in the three months to July, the Office for National Statistics said.

But the growth in employment fell below analyst expectations, which had forecast a 55,000 rise.

The lowest employment rate estimate in the UK was in the North-East (71.1%), up from 70.8% in the same period last year.

The highest was in the South West (80.8%).

Meanwhile, the rate of unemployment is at its lowest in 45 years, driven by a record low in the percentage of women who are unemployed.

The number of people out of work dropped 11,000 to 1.29 million for the quarter, as the rate of unemployment stayed flat at 3.8%, lower than predicted by analysts.

Job vacancies continued to tumble, however, falling 23,000 to 812,000 during the period, stoking fears of an economic slowdown.

Vacancies were at the lowest level since November 2017, driven by declining job openings at small firms, the ONS said.

Employment also increased as the number of people aged between 16 and 64 considered economically inactive continued to rise, increasing by 6,000 to 8.59 million.

The high level of employment was also linked to the record-high percentage of women aged between 16 and 64 in work, which remained at 72.1%.

Average earnings, which include bonuses, had the fastest rate of growth since May 2008 as they increased by 4% compared with 3.8% in the previous month.

The ONS said in real terms - after adjusting for inflation - total pay is estimated to have increased by 2.1% compared with a year earlier.

David Freeman, head of labour market statistics for the ONS, said: "The employment rate has remained fairly constant at a joint record high for some months now, while the unemployment rate was last lower at the end of 1974.

"Vacancies continue to fall back from recent record highs, with much of this decline coming from small businesses.

"Including bonuses, wages are now growing at 4% a year in cash terms for the first time since 2008.

"Once adjusted for inflation, they have now gone above 2% for the first time in nearly four years."