realwages

Meanwhile, the data on jobs was encouraging – up to a point.

UK unemployment in the three months to July was 4.9%, the same as the month before, but the ONS – which compiles the data – also records monthly figures in isolation; and July unemployment was down to 4.7%. There is a reason why the ONS does not make too much of the monthly reading, it is very volatile, but even so, it is an encouraging finding.

UK employment rose by 174,000 compared to the previous three-month period, hitting 74.5%, the highest rate since records began in 1971.

So far, so good.

Drill down, and things look less encouraging. As Samuel Tombs at Pantheon Economics said: “When you scratch beneath the surface, today’s labour market figures are not as robust as they first appear. . . The headline figure . . . remains supported by surging self-employment. . . The strong growth also reflected a shift towards part-time working; total weekly hours rose by just 0.3% between April and July. In addition, the tiny 3K rise in the three-month average number of job vacancies between May and August and the deterioration in surveys of employment intentions, point to much slower employment growth ahead.”