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UK jobs picture robust as Omicron struck

LONDON (AFP) – Britain’s unemployment rate dropped and payrolls recovered further at the end of last year despite the onset of the Omicron variant, official data showed yesterday.

The unemployment rate fell to 4.1 per cent in the three months to the end of November, from 4.2 per cent in the quarter ending in October, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a statement.

The number of payrolled workers meanwhile jumped 0.6 per cent in December from November, the ONS added.

“The number of employees on payrolls continued to grow strongly in December, with the total now well above pre-pandemic levels,” said ONS director of economic statistics Darren Morgan.

He added that the unemployment rate “fell back almost to where it was before Covid-19 hit”.

Morgan noted however that job vacancies were growing at a slower pace compared with last summer and that real wages in November fell on the year for the first time since mid-2020 following a spike to inflation.

All eyes will be on the latest United Kingdom (UK) inflation data due out today, as consumers and businesses struggle with surging costs.

“Rising inflation means that squeezed incomes joins the difficulties firms are facing filling vacancies as major challenges in the UK labour market,” Director of employment at Britain’s main lobby group the CBI Matthew Percival said following yesterday’s jobs data.

“To break this cycle and deliver sustainably rising living standards, the UK needs a plan to unleash business investment and raise ambitions for growth.”

Economies are battling against decades-high inflation that is forcing central banks to hike interest rates, including the Bank of England which last month raised its key borrowing cost to 0.25 per cent.