UK unemployment stable but inflation slams wages: data
UK unemployment has steadied but wages continue to lag sky-high inflation, official data showed Tuesday, fuelling a cost-of-living crisis and mass strike action.
The unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.7 percent in the three months to the end of November compared with the three months to the end of October, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a statement.
Wages jumped 6.4 percent over the same period — but sank by 2.6 percent in real terms, with British inflation stuck at the highest level in decades.
“The real value of people’s pay continues to fall, with prices still rising faster than earnings,” said Darren Morgan, ONS director of economic statistics.
“This remains amongst the fastest drops in regular earnings since records began” in 2001.
With pay failing to keep pace with rampant prices, Britain is witnessing strikes across the public and private sectors.
A total 467,000 working days were lost to walkouts in November, the highest level since 2011, the ONS said Tuesday.
Key affected areas included communication, transport and education.
Industrial action looks set to intensify after Britain’s largest teaching and nursing unions on Monday announced further stoppages, while the government seeks to limit strikes with controversial legislation.
The ONS will publish crucial December inflation data on Wednesday.
Inflation slowed in November but remains at around the highest level in 40 years, at 10.7 percent.
Prices last year soared on supply constraints caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the lifting of pandemic lockdowns and Brexit fallout.
The UK government argues that lifting pay risks worsening the inflation situation.
“We must not do anything that risks permanently embedding high prices into our economy, which will only prolong the pain for everyone,” repeated finance minister Jeremy Hunt in response to Tuesday’s data.
That has sparked fury from trade unions.
“Workers have been losing hundreds of pounds from their annual pay over the last year,” said Paul Nowak, head of the Trades Union Congress umbrella group.
“The Conservative government will not resolve pay disputes by rushing in new laws that attack the right to strike.
“The best way to settle disputes is around the negotiating table — and with credible pay offers that protect workers from rising prices,” Nowak added.