14 May 2003, 12:50  UK jobless falls, earnings rise

LONDON, May 14 - Following is a selection of economists' reactions on the latest UK labour market data. Claimant count unemployment fell by 2,100 in April versus analysts' expectations of a rise of 2,600. Headline earnings growth accelerated to 3.4 percent in hte three months to March compared with a forecast of 2.8 percent.
"It is a surprise -- the claimant count fell, earnings came in better than expected. An even bigger surprise is that they were related to bonuses rather than underlying pay settlements. The market reacted quite strongly. On its own, the numbers might reduce a chance for further rate cuts. But I don't think it should be looked at in isolation and we still need to see economic data in May to see a clearer economic picture." DAVID PAGE, INVESTEC "A little bit of a surprise on the claimant count. At these levels the market is still flat but it shows that despite media reports, employment is still picking up in the retail and government sectors. It shows the labour market is still strong."
"The figures still show a very robust labour market that isn't deteriorating. There is evidence that the public sector is helping. It continues the recent run of data that have argued against rate cuts but we still there is more easing to come."//

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