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UK unemployment falls further as wages lag prices

LONDON — Unemployment in the U.K. stood at 3.8 percent between December 2021 and February 2022, down 0.2 percentage points, according to figures out Tuesday from the Office for National Statistics.

Experimental payroll data for March also showed continuing job gains despite rocketing inflation and global economic uncertainty.

Meanwhile, more people continued to give up on finding employment, the ONS warned, and except for bonuses, real wages lagged well behind inflation.

“While unemployment has fallen again, we are still seeing rising numbers of people disengaging from the labour market, and as they aren’t working or looking for work, are not counted as unemployed,” said Darren Morgan, head of economic statistics at the ONS, in a statement. “While strong bonuses continue to mitigate the effects of rising prices on people’s total earnings, basic pay is now falling noticeably in real terms.”

U.K. Chancellor Rishi Sunak had a positive spin on the data, telling media in a statement: “Today’s stats show the continued strength of our jobs market, with the number of employees on payrolls rising once again in March and unemployment falling further below pre-pandemic levels.”

The Labour Party, for its part, attacked the government for not doing enough to support living standards for employees. “Today’s figures show that Conservative choices are leaving real wages squeezed and people worse off,” said Labour’s Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Pat McFadden, blasting Sunak for making “Britain the only major economy to land working people with higher taxes in the midst of a cost of living crisis.”

Wage growth without bonuses was 4 percent, while inflation is expected to exceed 8 percent in the coming months.

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