The unexpected drop of 0.1 per cent from a five-year high of 5.1 per cent in the October-December period came as the ONS revealed the number of workers on UK payrolls increased for the third month in a row in February.
However the unemployment rate is still 1.1 per cent higher than a year earlier and the number of workers on UK payrolls has fallen by nearly 700,000 since the start of the pandemic.
Of that decrease, close to two-thirds has been among those aged under-25 and almost a third has been in London.
Overall there were 693,000 fewer workers on payrolls than in February 2020, with more than half – 368,000 jobs – lost in the hospitality sector as lockdowns left forced many businesses to close.
The ONS added that 123,000 payroll jobs were also lost in the hard-hit retail sector.
Over the November to January period, an estimated 1.7 million people were unemployed, up 360,000 on the same three months a year earlier.
Sam Beckett, ONS head of economic statistics, said: “After yet another monthly increase, there were almost 200,000 more employees on payroll in February than three months earlier, although that is still nearly 700,000 down from the start of the pandemic.”