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Economy in Brief

UK Labor Market Data Show Rising Unemployment But Stable Employment & Firm Wages
by Carol Stone July 12, 2006

In the April accounting period for the UK labor force survey (3-month average, March through May) employment gave up some of its prior periods' gains. It had done nicely for the five month-to-month readings beginning in November, rising a total of 173,000 through March. But the April period saw employment fall by 38,000. This brought the 3-month change, the gauge used by UK's Office of National Statistics (ONS), down to 59,000 from 131,000 in March.

These moves leave the employment picture somewhat ambiguous. Unemployment, though, has a clearer picture. It is rising. The number unemployed is up 223,000, or 15.6%, from a year ago. The unemployment rate rose in April to 5.4%, its highest since the same level in September 2000. Similarly, claimants for unemployment benefits, which are published on a single-month basis and were issued today for June, increased 93,300 over a year ago to 956,600. This is the largest number since January 2002. However, the monthly increases have tapered a bit in the last couple of months, so perhaps the greatest erosion has past.

The number of job vacancies has stabilized. They totaled 603,000 in June, up from 583,900 in May. A 3-month moving average of these available jobs has hovered in a range of 593,000 to 603,000 since last October after falling sharply from a peak of 650,500 in December 2004.

Finally, workers' earnings recovered from a period of softness in late 2005, reaching a 12-month growth rate of 4.4% in April, from a recent low of 3.5% in January. Then for May, they slowed a bit to 4.1%.

These conditions in the UK labor market have a cloudy cast. The unemployment data seem to be cause for discomfort, with a rising rate and rising unemployment insurance claims. But employment and wages performed well over the winter into the spring and the number of job vacancies is holding steady. Thus, while the jobs data don't look vigorous, they are holding up but unemployment is tending higher. A very mixed view.

  Jun 2006 May 2006 Apr 2006 Mar 2006 Year Ago 2005 2004 2003
(3Mo Avg, SA, Thous)
-- -- 28,899 28,937 28,676 28,743 28,465 28,183
Chg from 1 & 3 Months Ago -- -- -38/59 +41/131 +19(MoAvg)  1.0% 1.0% 1.0%
Unemployment Rate  
(3Mo Avg, SA, %)
-- -- 5.4% 5.3% 4.7% 4.8% 4.8% 5.0%
Claimant Count  
(Monthly, Thous)
956.6 950.7 945.1 937.8 863.3 861.1 853.6 933.3
Vacancies (Monthly, Thous) 603.0 583.9 604.9 589.9 615.3 618.5 631.9 581.9
Average Earnings Index inc Bonus (Headline Rate*) -- 4.1% 4.4% 4.2% 4.0% 4.1% 4.3% 3.4%
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