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Annie Hayes

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Labour market buckles under weight of contradictions

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Labour market statistics present a mixed picture.

Official figures from the Office of National Statistics show that the trend in the employment rate is increasing. Working numbers increased by 99,000 over the quarter and by 271,000 over the year, to reach 28.49 million. This is the highest level since comparable records began in 1971.

Despite this trend, however, the number of unemployed has swelled by 13,000 to reach 1.40 million.

While at the same time the number of benefit claimants in November came in at 826,000, down 6,200 on the previous month; the number of job vacancies also rose 4,400 on the previous quarter.

Minister for Work, Jane Kennedy said of the figures: “As the labour market continues to grow, so do the opportunities for people to move from welfare to work. Not only has unemployment fallen to its lowest level for thirty years, there are also fewer people claiming incapacity benefits and fewer lone parents on benefit.”

Other findings show that in the three months to November pay rose.

Including bonuses, the growth in average earnings (the AEI) was 4.2% up from 4.1% the previous month.

Excluding bonuses, however, the AEI remained unchanged on the previous month, at 4.4%.

Improved pay conditions are attributed to a delay in bonus payments in several key industries including property, renting and business service sectors.

The figures signal a tightening labour market, conditions that are breeding inflationary pressures.

The Centre of Economics and Business Research (CEBR) pointed out that this is, however, below the Bank of England ‘danger level’ of 4.5% – although not in the public sector, where average earnings growth excluding bonuses hit 4.8%, up 0.2% from a month ago.

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Annie Hayes

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