NEWS that unemployment has dropped to 7.1 per cent has been welcomed by the CBI.

Official labour market data also shows that employment rose by a record 280,000 in the three months to November.

CBI Director of Employment and Skills, Neil Carberry, said: “These figures show that our jobs market is working well, with unemployment dropping faster than in less flexible countries.

“It’s particularly encouraging to see so many people finding full-time jobs, with more people moving from part-time to full-time work, and an increase in young people finding jobs as well.

“While the overall picture is very positive, productivity is still below recession levels and not growing, and sustainable increases in wages can only be linked to improved productivity.

"With private sector wages only increasing at 1.2 per cent, a substantially higher rise in the national minimum wage is unlikely to be affordable for many businesses in 2014.”

The CBI is the UK's leading business organisation, speaking for 240,000 businesses that together employ around a third of the private sector workforce.