British wage growth at lowest in 3 months

LONDON • British wage growth fell by more than expected to hit its lowest in three months in June, official data showed yesterday, while the unemployment rate held steady.

Growth in average weekly earnings in the three months to June slumped to 2.4 per cent on the year, slowing down from 3.2 per cent in the three months to May, well below economists' forecasts of 2.8 per cent in a Reuters poll.

The Office for National Statistics also said Britain's unemployment rate held steady at 5.6 per cent after an unexpected rise in the three months to May.

May's increase in unemployment was the first since early 2013 and left economists unsure whether Britain's recovery was weakening, or if this was a hiccup as employers hunted for better-qualified staff.

The Bank of England (BoE) is monitoring the labour market as it judges when to raise interest rates for the first time since the start of the financial crisis in 2008.

Wages have picked up faster than the BoE expected earlier this year, but last week it said this was partly mitigated by stronger productivity and the fact that wage rises were driven by higher bonuses, something which could be temporary.

Markets pushed back expectations for an interest rate rise in Britain last week after only one BoE official voted for a rise in borrowing costs against expectations that two or more would do so.

Excluding bonuses, average weekly earnings growth held steady at 2.8 per cent in the three months to June as expected. This rate was last higher in early 2009. Inflation, as measured by the consumer price index, fell to zero per cent in June.

The combination of rising earnings and subdued inflation is boosting the spending power of households, which saw their real income hurt by five years of wages rising less than inflation.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2015, with the headline 'British wage growth at lowest in 3 months'. Print Edition | Subscribe