Published: Thu, February 22, 2018
Markets | By Noel Gibbs

UK employment rises for the first time in almost two years

UK employment rises for the first time in almost two years

Unemployment jumped by 46,000 in the three months to December, the first rise since mid-2016 and the fastest increase since the start of 2013.

However, Norway believes that the marginal change is well within the margin of error.

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 number of people claiming unemployment benefits decreased by 7,200 in January.

Analysts said that Wednesday's data reduced the likelihood that the Bank of England would raise its main interest rate in May, as had been widely expected by markets.

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At the same time, the employment rate rose to 75.2% from 74.6% a year ago.

Average wages also grew by an average of 2.5 per cent, up from 2.4 per cent the previous month, ONS added.

The number of people in work fell for the first time since August 2016.

United Kingdom average weekly earnings for the three months to December remained 2.5% higher than the same period a year before for the third consecutive reading, as expected, though it jumped by 2.8% if the month of December was taken alone.

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That was still weaker than the 3.0 percent reading of British consumer price inflation for December and the ONS said wage growth in real terms dropped by an annual 0.3 percent over the fourth quarter.

The figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) sent the pound a cent lower against the United States dollar to just over $1.39. In particular, fewer citizens of the eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004 and of non-EU countries were in work than in the year before.

"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.

"For the Bank of England, which has said rising wages are a key argument for tighter monetary policy, today's data makes a May rate hike all the more likely although as always, this still relies on renewed Brexit progress over coming weeks", said James Smith, developed markets economist at ING.

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