The consumer price index (CPI) rose 0.9 percent in the month, the data showed, beating a Bloomberg analysis that forecast a 0.8 percent increase.
Including bonuses, average wages rose 2.3%, accelerating from 2.2% a month before and on a single month basis, annual growth in average weekly earnings picked up from 2% in January to 2.9% in February.
On their own, food climbed 0.6 per cent between February and March, while clothing and footwear prices went up by two per cent over the period compared to a one per cent jump previous year.
Adding to signs that inflationary pressures are moderating, growth in factory-gate prices also slowed with producer price inflation (PPI) rising 7.6% from a year earlier, down from 7.8% in February.
The number of people classed as economically inactive, including those looking after a relative, on long-term sick leave, or who have given up looking for work, fell by 10,000 to 8.8 million, although the rate remained little changed at 21.6%.
The February figures reflected the fastest increase since September 2008, raising hopes that the pick-up in prices could trickle down to other economies.
British inflation held steady in March due to the later timing of this year's Easter holidays which pushed down airfares, and a dip in global oil prices, but the squeeze on households looks set to resume soon.
"The CPI also will be boosted over the next two months by further utility price rises".
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The Office for National Statistics said that the rate of unemployment remained stable as expected in February at an 11-year low of 4.7%.
Sterling hit its highest level in over a week against the US dollar after the figures as investors focused on a slightly stronger-than-expected rate of nominal pay growth.
The total of people out of work in the United Kingdom has fallen to its lowest since 2006 with the employment rate equalling its highest figure since records began 46 years ago.
Nina Skero, managing economist at the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), said households will increasingly feel the pinch as wage growth struggles to keep pace with inflation.
That should give China's central bank confidence to continue with gradual monetary policy tightening as it tries to coax companies to reduce high levels of debt, ANZ economists said, predicting further hikes in short-term interest rates this year.
The number of people in work increased by 39,000, taking the employment rate to 74.6 percent, a joint record high.
"With the prices of essentials such as housing costs, food and transport on the rise, less money will be left over for discretionary spending".