The UK government was given a pre-Budget boost with new figures showing a record number of people in work and continuing falls in unemployment.
Just over 30 million people are now in jobs, up by 459,000 on a year ago, the highest figure since records began in 1971.
The jobless total fell by 63,000 in the quarter to January to 2.33 million, a rate of 7.2%. Most of the fall was among men.
The number of people claiming jobseeker's allowance in the UK February fell by 34,600 to 1.17 million, the 16th consecutive monthly reduction, while vacancies jumped by 23,000 to 588,000, the most since 2008.
The Office for National Statistics also reported a fall in the number of people working part-time because they could not find full-time work - down by 32,000 in the latest quarter to 1.4 million, although still 41,000 higher than a year ago.
Youth and long-term unemployment both fell, with those out of work for over a year down by 38,000 to 828,000, while 912,000 people aged between 16 and 24 were jobless, down by 29,000.
The number of people classed as economically inactive, including long-term sick, those looking after a relative or who have given up looking for work, fell by 19,000 to 8.9 million, including the lowest number of women on record (5.6 million).
Public sector employment has fallen by 159,000 to 5.5 million, the lowest since December 1999, although most of the reduction was explained by Royal Mail workers moving to the private sector because of the postal group's privatisation.
Local government employment fell by 25,000 to 2.3 million and by 6,000 in the civil service to 441,000. Private sector employment is now 662,000 higher than a year ago.
The unemployment rate, now 7.2%, is no longer linked to the Bank of England's pledge to keep interest rates at record lows after governor Mark Carney unveiled new forward guidance. The bank had pledged not to consider a rate rise until unemployment fell to 7%.