Unemployment rises but wage growth accelerates

The O.N.S. said the number of European Union nationals working in Britain rose by an annual 4.5 percent over the fourth quarter, the smallest increase since the third quarter of 2013.

As a result of the increase, the unemployment rate on a quarterly basis ticked up for the first time since February 2016, albeit by a modest 0.1 percentage point to a still historically low level of 4.4 percent.

Average earnings increased by 2.5% in the year to December, unchanged from the previous month, said the Office for National Statistics.

The fact that there was a rise in unemployment at the same time as rising employment was explained by the fact that the number of economically inactive people - those not seeking or available to work - fell over the period. The overall employment rate rose to 75.2 percent, close to a record. There were 32.15 million people in work.

The rise in the jobless rate and the increase in average earnings may undermine the case for the BOE to raise its benchmark interest rate in the months ahead.

The number of Britons in work grew less than expected, rising by 88,000, about half the consensus forecast in a Reuters poll of economists.

More timely data on the January claimant count showed a 7,200 decline to 0.823m, versus an expected 4,100 increase.

The squeeze on United Kingdom households continues with a lethal cocktail of rising prices, paltry pay growth and record low interest rates.

"Rising employment this past year was largely driven by United Kingdom nationals" as fewer eastern Europeans and non-EU nationals were working than a year earlier, ONS statistician Matt Hughes said.

"It is equally important that, across society, everyone has the opportunity to get a good job, and get on in life".

"We are closing the BAME and gender employment gaps, and people across the country are accessing new opportunities".

But TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said the continued squeeze on real terms pay was "pushing families to the brink". They are not on them by choice. "Her feeble response to the Taylor Review means zero-hours workers will remain at the beck and call of bad bosses".

  • Anthony Vega