Employment numbers steady but wage growth stuck in neutral

Latest Figures Show UK Unemployment Has Risen Above 2 Million

The unemployment rate rose to 4.4 percent from 4.3 percent, the first increase since the three months to February 2016 as the number of jobless rose for a third monthly report in a row.

However, Norway believes that the marginal change is well within the margin of error.

The number of Britons in work grew less than expected, rising by 88,000, about half the consensus forecast in a Reuters poll of economists.

The ONS attributed a rise in unemployment to fewer economically inactive people - those neither working nor looking for a job.

Wage growth has remained floored by inflation and will potentially dampen the prospect of another interest rate rise in May, critics have suggested.

Britain's jobless rate rose for the first time in nearly two years at the end of 2017 and pay growth remained modest, keeping the Bank of England waiting for an acceleration in wages that would justify a new interest rate hike.

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Those released included several prominent opposition leaders and well-known journalist Eskinder Nega, a critic of the government. A statement by the state broadcaster said the move was necessary to stem a wave of anti-government protests. .

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.

Wednesday's data marks the first time since August 2016 that the UK's headline rate of unemployment has climbed.

Average weekly earnings for employees in nominal terms (not adjusted for inflation) increased by 2.5% including and excluding bonuses. "But it's important to remember these figures simply look at the number of people in work, and aren't a measure of migration". In particular, fewer citizens from eastern European countries were in work than in the year before. With only two months left in the 2017/18 financial year, cumulative borrowing now stands at 37.7 billion pounds, down 16 percent on the same point a year ago.

"This is the sharpest increase in the unemployment level the ONS has seen in nearly five years", Matt Hughes, a senior statistician from the ONS. told media.

"For the Bank of England, which has said rising wages are a key argument for tighter monetary policy, today's data makes a May rate hike all the more likely although as always, this still relies on renewed Brexit progress over coming weeks", said James Smith, developed markets economist at ING.

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