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LONDON: Britain’s unemployment remains close to historic lows but wages are still falling in real terms, official data showed on Tuesday on the eve of the budget.
The unemployment rate was stable at 3.7 per cent in the three months to the end of January compared with the three months to the end of December, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a statement.
Wages excluding bonuses rose 6.5 per cent – but plunged 3.5 per cent when inflation is taken into account.
“Although the inflation rate has fallen slightly, it is still outstripping earnings growth, meaning that real wages are continuing to fall,” said ONS director of economic statistics, Darren Morgan, on Tuesday.
Britain continues to be plagued by strikes as workers protest the failure of wages to keep up with consumer prices.
The data was published a day before finance minister Jeremy Hunt revealed the government’s latest budget, against a background of a cost of living crisis that has triggered strikes across Britain.
UK hospital doctors on Monday began a three-day strike over pay at the start of a week which will also see teachers, training staff and civil servants walk out, in industrial action timed to coincide with the budget.
UK inflation rate falls more than expected to 10.1p
The ONS also revealed on Tuesday that the economy now has more than 1.1 million job vacancies.
“The jobs market remains strong, but inflation remains too high,” Hunt said in response to Tuesday’s data.
“Tomorrow at the budget, I will set out how we will go further to reduce inflation, reduce debt and grow the economy, including by helping more people back into work.”
Hunt said over the weekend he would unveil more childcare support to help parents return to work.
And it is said that he will seek pension changes to encourage workers not to retire early.
The government is looking to fill vacancies partly due to a lack of EU workers following Brexit and a record number of people being classified as long-term ill.
Annual UK inflation has cooled in recent months but remains above 10 per cent, five times the rate targeted by the Bank of England.