A total of 220,000 working days were lost to strike action in January, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.

In the first month of this year, strike action was taken by teachers, rail workers, driving examiners, bus drivers and NHS staff.

The number is down on the 822,000 days lost to strikes in December 2022.

Unemployment remained steady at 3.7%, the same as last month and only a slight increase from a low not seen since 1974. The rate had been expected to increase to 3.8%, economist polled by Reuters forecast.

Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics at the ONS, said: “The number of working days lost to strikes fell in January from the very high level seen in December. Nevertheless, many days were still lost, with education the most affected sector.”

Despite unemployment remaining low, the number of job vacancies fell for the eighth consecutive period by 51,000 to 1.1 million from December to February.

The fall reflects uncertainty across industries, as ONS respondents cited economic pressures as a factor in pausing or refraining from hiring.

More on Rail Strikes

Redundancies rose to pre-pandemic levels again. From November to January, the number of people reporting redundancy rose to 3.3 people per thousand employees.

Pay, including bonuses, rose 5.7% from November to January. But despite increased wages, workers are still earning less.

Real pay, including bonuses, fell 3.5% as wage and bonus growth failed to keep up with the increasing cost of goods.

Most recent official figures show inflation stands at 10.1%, meaning people are effectively earning less.

Pay rises differed across the economy and private sector wages continue to surpass public sector wage increases.

Private employers had their pay increased by an average of 7% while public sector workers only had a pay bump of 4.8%.

The numbers of people neither working nor seeking work, the economic inactivity rate, decreased to 21.3% in November 2022 to January 2023, down from 21.4% in the three months up to December. The decrease was driven by people aged 16 to 24.

Coming out of the pandemic the number of people neither working nor seeking work for a range of reasons had risen to more than nine million people, the equivalent of one-in-five working age adults.

Responding to the figures, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said: “The jobs market remains strong, but inflation remains too high. To help people’s wages go further, we need to stick to our plan to halve inflation this year.

“Tomorrow at the budget, I will set out how we will go further to bear down on inflation, reduce debt and grow the economy, including by helping more people back into work.”

Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Ashworth, also commented: “The Tories’ abject failure to support people back to work means there are 234,000 fewer people in employment than before the pandemic.

“While other major economies have bounced back, Britain is languishing under the Tories – and families are paying the price.

“Labour is ambitious for Britain and has led the battle of ideas putting forward key welfare reforms to help get Britain back to work. We will support people into work and create good, new jobs across every part of the country.”