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UK wage growth picks up to 11-year high

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Wage growth in the UK reached an 11-year high in the year to June, and the employment rate was its joint highest since 1971, official figures show.

Wage growth rose to 3.9%, while the estimated 76.1% employment rate was the best since comparative records began.

Overall, a record high of 32.81 million people were in employment, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

This was 425,000 more than a year earlier and was largely because of more people working full-time.

However, the unemployment rate in the April to June period showed a slight rise.

Figures released last week indicated that the UK’s economy shrank 0.2% in the second quarter of the year, the first contraction since 2012.

What is behind the increase in wages?

Wages have been increasing at a faster pace than inflation since March 2018.

The 3.9% increase in regular pay – which excludes bonuses – was up from last month’s figure of 3.6%.

Part of the reason for the rise was the unusual timing of annual pay rises for public health workers last year, when a larger-than-usual increase was deferred until July.

In real terms (after adjusting for inflation), regular pay is estimated to have increased by 1.9%.

Matt Hughes, the ONS deputy head of labour market statistics said: “Excluding bonuses, real wages are growing at their fastest in nearly four years, but pay levels still have not returned to their pre-downturn peak.”

Working women behind rise in employment

The employment rate for women was 72.1% – the highest on record – and for men was 80.1%, slightly lower than the previous three-month period.

Mr Hughes added: “Employment continues to increase, with three-quarters of this year’s growth being due to more women working.

“However, the number of vacancies has been falling for six months, with fewer now than there were this time last year.”

The unemployment rate edged up slightly to 3.9%, which was a little lower than a year earlier.

The economic inactivity rate, which is defined as people not in employment who have not looked for work in the past four weeks or cannot start in the next fortnight, was estimated at 20.7%, a joint record low.

What has been the reaction to the figures?

Chancellor Sajid Javid said: “Every person deserves the chance to succeed and provide for their families through a steady income.

“Today’s figures are another sign that despite the challenges across the global economy, the fundamentals of the British economy are strong as we prepare to leave the EU.”

Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said the figures should silence any calls for a cut in interest rates.

“The labour market tends to lag developments in the wider economy,” he said. “Firms, however, have lived with high levels of economic uncertainty for the best part of a year, and still want to fill new positions.

“In the event that Brexit is delayed further… or an agreement is reached in October and the economy starts to rebuild a little momentum, the [Bank of England’s] MPC (Monetary Policy Committee) will need to move in short order to raise the bank rate again.”

Tej Parikh, chief economist at the Institute of Directors, said that while the jobs market remained “a source of strength for the UK economy”, it may be reaching its peak.

“As more workers have been snapped up, firms have found it harder to fill their openings. While competition has pushed up salaries, thin margins and low productivity may set a ceiling for pay growth. Although vacancies remain high by historic standards, the number has been dropping since the start of the year.”

Ian Stewart, chief economist at Deloitte, said: “The days of sharply falling unemployment are behind us, but a tight labour market points to further gains in wages and spending power. Despite a second quarter decline in growth, the UK economy still has momentum.”

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T20 Blast: Essex and Hampshire record needed wins

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Ravi Bopara

Essex recorded an exciting T20 Blast victory at South Group leaders Sussex, while Hampshire cruised past Middlesex.

The visitors hit 168-5 in their 20 overs, with Dan Lawrence (59*) and Ravi Bopara (45) both hitting good scores.

The hosts were reduced to 25-3 in the fourth over before David Weise (66) got them back in contention, only for them to fall nine runs short.

Meanwhile, Hampshire reached Middlesex’s 128 inside 15 overs to boost their quarter-final prospects.

The hosts never really got going, with England One-Day skipper Eoin Morgan making 20 from 17 balls before being caught by James Fuller off the bowling of Liam Dawson.

James Vince’s 69 from 42 balls, including 11 fours, helped the visitors to a fourth win of the group stage.

Despite slipping to a fourth defeat of the group stage, Middlesex remain third with three games to play.

Sharks slip to surprise defeat

Sussex had only lost once in the T20 Blast this season prior to Thursday’s defeat.

Bopara and Lawrence, who had extended his contract with the county earlier on Thursday, batted excellently to move Essex from 84-4 to 166-5 before the former was caught brilliantly on the boundary by Chris Jordan in the final over.

Weise looked to be steering Sussex to what had seemed like an unlikely win but when he was trapped lbw by a slower ball from Simon Harmer (2-19) their hopes faded and were all but gone when Jordan (19) was caught by Bopara off the bowling of Mohammad Amir (4-29).

Essex visit Hampshire on Sunday in a game that neither side can afford to lose if they are to progress.

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Channel migrants: Children among group on Sussex beach

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Twenty-four migrants – including four children – were detained by police after landing on a Sussex beach.

The group, who travelled by boat to Winchelsea Beach, were handed over to Border Force, Sussex Police said.

A further two boats carrying a total of 19 adults, ten children and a baby were picked up by French authorities attempting to cross the Channel.

At least 869 people, including more than 80 children, have crossed the Channel in small boats this year.

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.

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Sussex company bookkeeper jailed for £117k fraud

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A woman who stole nearly £117,000 from a business has been jailed.

Lynn Boakes was hired as a bookkeeper at a steel company in West Sussex in 2013 and was responsible for the payroll.

The 47-year-old began taking regular sick days towards the end of 2016 despite posts on social media showing her shopping or on holiday.

A judge at Hove Crown Court jailed Boakes, of Sea Lane, Pagham, for three years.

The company’s director began searching archive payroll documents and discovered that between October 2014 and April 2017 Boakes overpaid herself by a total of £13,462.

Further investigation discovered she had also diverted £103,450.26 of her employer’s funds into her personal bank account that had been disguised by using a fake company name.

Boakes was immediately suspended from the company, the director informed Sussex Police and her work computer was seized.

On this computer a job reference for a job application for her husband was found.

The reference falsely stated David Boakes, 54, had worked for the steel company for two years and it had been signed by a fake employee ‘Janet Young’ – Boakes’s actual middle and maiden names.

Boakes pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud in July while her husband admitted one charge of fraud and was given a conditional discharge.

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