UK Jobless Rate Rises In Q4

Office for National Statistics

Office for National Statistics

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.

Unemployment increased by 46,000 between October and December to 1.47 million, official figures show.

"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. Although it has risen, the jobless rate remains low.

Average earnings including and excluding bonuses grew 2.5% each on a yearly basis in three months ended December.

The number of workers on zero-hours contracts in their main job fell by 4,000 to 901,000 in the quarter to last December compared with the previous year.

This is the largest rise in the jobless total since early 2013 and the first time it has jumped since the summer of 2016.

The number of people classed as economically inactive, including students, those on long-term sick leave, taken early retirement or who have given up looking for work, fell by 109,000 to 8.7 million, giving a rate of 21%.

Average earnings increased by 2.5% in the year to December, unchanged from the previous month.

Still, wage increases are lagging price rises, meaning household incomes remain stretched as the country enters a crucial stage in Brexit discussions. 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. In total, there were 1.47 million unemployed people, 46,000 more than for the three months to September but it's 123,000 fewer than recorded previous year.

But TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said the continued squeeze on real terms pay was "pushing families to the brink".

He said: "While an upturn in pay growth opens the door further for interest rates to rise again, possibly as soon as May, signs of the labour market losing steam add to worries that the economy is struggling under heightened uncertainty".

Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, said the labour market update contained "mixed messages" for Bank of England rate-setters.

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