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Record numbers in work – ONS

The UK labour market remained robust in November according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) with the number of people in work reaching a new high of 32.54m.

Significantly, the data also showed a sharp increase in average earnings, (including bonuses) which rose 3.4% y/y, the biggest increase since July 2008 and higher than October’s 3.3%. Adjusting for inflation, which fell to 2.3% in November, average pay increased by 1.1% in real terms.

Unemployment was flat, with a small increase of 8,000 between September and November for a total of 1.37m with the number of job vacancies up 10,000 to 853,000. The unemployment total is 68,000 lower than a year ago, with the jobless rate 0.2% down on this time in 2018.

ONS head of labour market David Freeman said: “The number of people working grew again, with the share of the population in work now the highest on record.

“Meanwhile, the share of the workforce looking for work and unable to find it remains at its lowest for over 40 years, helped by a record number of job vacancies.

“Wage growth continues to outpace inflation, which fell back slightly in the latest month.”

Howard Archer, the chief economic adviser to the EY Item Club, said the increase in earnings growth indicated that the “tight labour market is pushing up pay – after suffering a relapse earlier in the year”.

But he warned that while employers were increasing pay to recruit staff during a period of skills shortages, workers already in a job were finding it more difficult to secure an inflation-busting rise.