Unemployment posted a second increase in as many months. The number of unemployed people in the UK increased by 24,000 to 1.45 million in the three-month period ending January 2018 compared with the previous three-month period ending October 2017, according to Labour Force Survey data. The rise was due to a 49,000 increase in the number of unemployed women. This took their numbers to 696,000 from 647,000 and pushed their unemployment rate up to 4.4% from 4.1%. The number of unemployed men fell by 25,000 to 757,000 compared with the previous three-month period ending October, and their unemployment rate was down to 4.2% from 4.4%.
Retail price inflation has fallen for a second consecutive month. In February, the Retail Prices Index (RPI) stood at 278.1 and the annual rate of inflation on the measure favoured by union negotiators was down to 3.6% against the 4.0% increase at the start of 2018. Cheaper petrol and a slower rise in food prices contributed to the slowdown. Inflation under the new Consumer Prices Index Housing (CPIH) was down to 2.5% from 2.7%. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Britain’s living standards crisis is far from over. Today’s fall in prices may ease the pressure a bit. But working people will still be worse off at the end of this parliament than before the crash.”
The rise in earnings dropped back as the influence of City Christmas bonuses fell out of the equation. In January 2018, average weekly earnings growth, including bonuses, were provisionally estimated to have risen by 2.8% against the revised increase of 3.2% for December. The sectoral figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show manufacturing earnings growth was down to 2.9% from 3.2% in December. In the private sector as a whole, growth was down to 2.9% from 3.5% the previous month. In the public sector, excluding financial services, growth was up to 2.5% from 1.9%. Headline earnings growth (the rolling three-month average) for the whole economy in January was up to 2.8% from 2.7% in December.