Unemployment on the rise as wages continue to lag

Norway Jobless Rate Rises 0.1% in December

As a result of the increase, the unemployment rate on a quarterly basis ticked up for the first time since February 2016, albeit by a modest 0.1 percentage point to a still historically low level of 4.4 percent.

British households lost spending power past year due to a jump in inflation, caused by the post-Brexit vote fall in the pound, and only weak wage growth.

At the same time, the employment rate rose to 75.2% from 74.6% a year ago.

Pay for workers in Britain picked up in the fourth quarter and productivity gained as fewer jobs were filled by foreign nationals in the previous year.

Analysts said that Wednesday's data reduced the likelihood that the Bank of England would raise its main interest rate in May, as had been widely expected by markets. That marked the strongest two quarters for productivity since the 2008-9 recession, the O.N.S. said.

Unemployment rates are calculated by people who are registered looking for work as a proportion of the working age population.

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Average earnings increased by 2.5% in the year to December, unchanged from the previous month.

At the same time while earnings have continued to grow more slowly than prices, new figures reveal. And private sector pay growth accelerated to 2.6% from 2.3%. That was the first rise since the three-month period to August 2016, which straddled the Brexit vote.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there were 32.15 million people in work, 88,000 more than for July to September 2017 and 321,000 more than for a year earlier. In particular, fewer citizens of the eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004 and of non-EU countries were in work than in the year before.

Overall migration data have shown a drop in net migration from the bloc into the Britain since the "Brexit" vote.

Separate ONS figures showed Britain's government recorded a January budget surplus of 10 billion pounds, slightly bigger than forecast and helped by a seasonal surge of income tax receipts at the start of the year. In midday trading, the pound was 0.5 percent lower at $1.3921. On Wednesday it said it now looked clear that Hammond would undershoot this "by a significant margin".

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