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Economy in Brief

UK Employment Conditions Continue To Erode
by Carol Stone March 15, 2006

Since we last reported on the UK labor market here in mid-January, conditions have continued to soften. Measured by 3-month centered moving averages, employment and unemployment have both deteriorated. In the December period (November, December and January), employment was off 7,000 from three months before (the usual UK comparison), following a 56,000 decline in the November period and 22,000 in October. The unemployment rate reached 5.1% in the November period and edged lower in December to 5.0%. It had averaged 4.8% for all of 2005.

More current data on claims for unemployment benefits and job vacancies point toward further possible labor market softening. The so-called "claimant count" shows that 919,700 people were collecting benefits in February, up from 901,900 in December and an average of 861,100 for 2005. The number of job vacancies is decreasing, pointing to fewer new opportunities for work: there were 610,700 reported vacancies in February, down from 627,900 in December and 626,700 for all of 2005. Other indicators of less-than-full participation in employment are also showing negative patterns. The number of employees who are working part-time because they can't find full-time work is rising. And the number of temporary workers who are working "temp" because they can't find permanent work has been ratcheting upward for several months.

Finally, as might be expected from a pattern of diminished demand for labor, workers' earnings are remaining on soft side. The headline series* for the average earnings index was 3.5% in January, flat with December and down from 4.0% in 2005 and 4.5% in 2004.

United Kingdom Feb 2006 Jan 2006 Dec 2005 Nov 2005 2005 2004 2003
Employment (3Mo Avg, SA, Thous) -- -- 28,806 28,769 28,743 28,465 28,183
Chg from 1 & 3 Months Ago -- -- +37/-7 +5/-56 1.0 1.0 1.0
Unemployment Rate
 (3Mo Avg, SA, %)
-- -- 5.0 5.1 4.8 4.8 5.0
Claimant Count (Monthly, Thous) 919.7 905.1 906.2 901.9 861.1 853.6 933.3
Vacancies (Monthly, Thous) 610.7 612.9 627.9 607.6 626.7 635.5 587.4
Average Earnings Index inc Bonus (Headline Rate*) -- 3.5 3.5 3.4 4.0 4.5 3.4
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