Unemployment in the south west has decreased by 26,000 in the quarter to April, official figures revealed today.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), a total of 136,000 people were unemployed in the region between February and April.

The region's unemployment rate was 4.9 per cent and saw a drop of 16.1 per cent during the period.

Nationwide, employment rose by a record 345,000 in the three months to April but Britain's workers were squeezed by a dramatic slowdown in pay growth.

The number of people in work stood at 30.54 million, according to the ONS, after a rise which was the highest since records began in 1971.

It means 780,000 jobs have been added since a year earlier, the biggest annual rise since 1989.

But pay growth for the period slowed to 0.7 per cent, a sharp fall on last month's figure of 1.7 per cent, blunting hopes of a return to a period of real-terms pay growth.

The increase was well below the latest inflation rate of 1.8 per cent, meaning the cost of living is still going up more quickly than pay packets.

This slowdown in total pay was largely accounted for by bonuses, which fell sharply compared with a period last year when in many cases they were deferred to April as tax changes were introduced.

But regular pay growth also slowed, to 0.9 per cent from 1.3 per cent.

Unemployment fell by 161,000 to 2.16 million, with the jobless rate dropping to 6.6 per cent.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: "This coalition government is strengthening the foundations on which our economy is built, creating the conditions for greater confidence, more jobs and further growth."

And Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said: "There can be no doubt that thanks to the hard work of millions of people and businesses across the country, supported by a Government that has made and stuck to the right decisions, Britain is bouncing back."

The Department for Work and Pensions said the figures meant the number of private sector workers was up by more than two million since 2010.

Employment minister Esther McVey said: "As we build a stronger economy, businesses up and down the country are feeling increasingly confident about creating jobs, meaning many thousands more people are in work every day - ensuring a better future for them, their families, and for the country as a whole."