By Marcus Leach

In what has been a tough financial year there was a ray of light today (Thursday) as it was announced the average annual earnings of full-time workers in the UK rose by 1.4% to £26,500 in the year to April 2012.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures were published in their annual survey of hours and earnings, although there was a cut in the real value of pay as inflation was higher during the same period, at 3.5%.

On the back of several reports into equality of pay, the pay gap between men and women shrank from 10.5% of men's full-time hourly earnings to 9.6%.

The ONS survey also found that the average weekly pay of staff in the public sector was still noticeably higher than for staff in private sector employment.

Full-time staff in the public sector saw their weekly pay rise by 1.6% to £565, while those in the private sector saw their earnings go up by 1.5% to £479.

"The compositions of the public and private sectors are different," the ONS said.

"Consequently, differences in gross weekly earnings do not reveal differences in rates of pay for comparable jobs.

"For example, many of the lowest-paid occupations, such as bar and restaurant staff, hairdressers, elementary sales occupations and cashiers, exist primarily in the private sector, while there are a larger proportion of graduate-level and professional occupations in the public sector."

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