The growth of wages facilitates home squeeze

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Wage growth has picked up, and unemployment has edged lower, according to the latest official data.

The Office for National Statistics said that, in comparison with the previous year, revenues grew by 2.6%, for the three months to the end of January.

That was 2.5% in the previous quarter and adds to the evidence that the contraction in household income may be coming to an end.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate ticked lower to 4.3% from 4.4%.

A small increase in the number of unemployed people during the quarter not to dent the overall increase in occupancy in the last year.

The data was not all positive, the number of unemployment benefit claimants rose by 9,200 to 838,000 in February, which is the highest level in more than three years.

But John Hawksworth, chief economist at PwC, said that the good news in the latest figures outweighed the bad.

“In particular, with the consumer inflation falling back to 2.7% in February, now we are very close to the point where real wage growth returns to positive territory,” he said.

“But even many years before that the real wage levels of return to the peak seen before the financial crisis.”

The BBC has learned that a million NHS staff, including nurses, porters and paramedics, who can expect pay increases of at least 6.5% in three years.

If approved, the workers in England could see their pay rise almost immediately.
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Economists wonder if the improvement in the outlook for pay will encourage the Bank of England to raise interest rates from current low levels.

Samuel Tombs, chief uk economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said that the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) should be cautious about raising the interest rate.

He said: “we still think that growth of salaries will increase at a modest pace this year, which ensures that the MPC needs to raise interest rates only 0.25% in 2018.”