14 December 2005, 13:21  Wage pressures in the UK eased back sharply

Wage pressures in the UK eased back sharply, suggesting that there is no hint of the dreaded secondary effects of inflation in the run-up to the year-end round of pay negotiations, official figures showed today The Office for National Statistics showed that average earnings, excluding bonuses, rose by 3.9 pct in the three months to October from the previous year, down from 4.0 pct the previous month and expectations of 4.0 pct. The latest figure is the lowest since the 3-months to October 2003 If the bonus element is included, headline average earnings slumped to show a rise of just 3.6 pct in the 3-months to October compared with the same period a year ago, a sharp drop from 4.1 pct in the 3-months to September and expectations of 4.0 pct The latest figure is the lowest since the 3-months August 2003. For the single month of October, headline average earnings rose by just 3.0 in November from a year ago -- the smallest increase since April 2003. In September it was up 3.8 pct NS said the falls reflect a high one-off bonus element in the financial sector in October last year which was not repeated in 2005. The figures will go some way to allay concerns at the Bank of England which has been worried that a tight labour market may stoke up wage demands, especially at a time when sky-high oil prices are pushing inflation above the target set by the government. In particular, policy-makers get increasingly agitated when average earnings are rising by 4.5 pct or more Meanwhile, the number of Britons seeking jobless claims rose for the tenth month in a row in November. The number claiming the job-seeker's allowance increased 10,500 from the previous month, taking the total to 902,000 -- the highest since December 2003. The increase was above expectations of an 8,000 rise Additionally, the claimant count for September was revised up to 13,500 from 12,100 previously Over the past 12 months, the claimant count has risen 70,1000. The claimant count rate for November was 2.9 pct of the workforce, unchanged on the previous month which was revised up to 2.9 pct from the initial estimate of 2.8 pct. The last time the rate was at 2.9 pct was in January 2004 The wider ILO measure of unemployment also increased in the three months to October. Unemployment was up 72,000 from the previous three months, taking the total unemployed to 1.49 mln. That's up 97,000 on the same period a year ago The ILO unemployment rate rose to 4.9 pct up from 4.7 pct in the previous three months

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