Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Another strong set of labour market figures
Posted by David Smith at 12:00 PM
Category: Thoughts and responses

The job market continues to perform well, defying the message from the GDP figures. The employment rate for 16-64 year-olds rose to 70.7% in the March-May period, up 0.3 on the quarter. As before, and indeed as for the past two years, private sector employment growth is greatly outstripping public sector job losses, with an overall rise of 181,000 in 16-plus employment in the latest three months, to 29.35m. Unemployment fell by 65,000 to 2.58m, 8.1% of the workforce.

These numbers speak of a healthy labour market. Hours worked, while affected by the change in timing of bank holidays, continued to rise, to 937.8m in the three months to May, up by 26.8m on a year earlier.

Was there any bad news in these figures? Average earnings are only rising by 1.5%. Strip out bonuses and they are still increasing by only 1.8%. The claimant count rose by 6,100 to 1.6m, 4.9% of the workforce. Normally this would be a harbinger of trouble, but the rate has only increased by 0.2 percentage points over the past year and is being boosted by claimants being shifted from other benefits. More here.

While the labour market continues to point to growth, the Bank of England is reacting to GDP figures it once said it did not believe. It voted 7-2 in favour of 50 billion more quantitative easing at its July meeting, considered 75 billion, and pondered cutting interest rates. The minutes are here.