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Employment rate matches record high but wage squeeze worsens - ONS

Employment rate matches record high but wage squeeze worsens - ONS

Emilio Casalicchio

3 min read

Unemployment dropped by 50,000 in the three months to April this year – as the rate of those in work rose to the joint highest since records began.

The number of people unemployed stood at 1.53 million – 145,000 lower than a year earlier, the Office for National Statistics said.

The proportion of people aged 16 to 64 who were in work hit 74.8% – a figure reached only once before since comparable records began in 1971.

But wages yet again failed to keep up with rising prices as workers in the UK continue to feel the squeeze.

ONS senior statistician Matt Hughes said: “Many labour market indicators remain strong, with the employment rate at a joint record high and the inactivity rate at a joint record low since comparable records began in 1971.

“On the other hand, with wage growth continuing to slow and inflation still rising real pay is down on the year. This is now the case whether or not bonuses are taken into account.”

There were 31.95 million people in work – 109,000 more than for November 2016 to January 2017 and 372,000 more compared with the year before. 

The unemployment rate was 4.6%, down from 5% the year before and the joint lowest since 1975.

But average weekly earnings fell in real terms compared with the year before by 0.4% if bonuses are included, and 0.6% without bonuses. This is the first annual decline in real average earnings since 2014.

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams said: ​“With the cost of basic essentials rising by 2.9 per cent, while wages stagnate, too many of Britain’s families are struggling to get by while Theresa May focuses on holding her unstable coalition of chaos together.

“Only a Labour government will ensure working people’s living standards are protected with a real Living Wage of £10 per hour, and an immediate end to austerity spending cuts.

“The Prime Minister must stand aside and let a Labour government build an economy that works for the many, not the few.”

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: “Unless the government gets its act together, we'll soon be in the middle of another cost of living crisis.

“Ministers must focus on delivering better-paid jobs across the UK. And it’s time to bin the artificial pay restrictions on nurses, midwives and other public sector workers. 

“Britain needs a pay rise, not more pressure on household budgets.”

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