Coffee House

Jobs figures: good news on unemployment, bad news on wages

13 August 2014

10:30 AM

13 August 2014

10:30 AM

Today’s labour market figures have enough in them for both sides of the political debate to feel they’ve got something to run with. First, the jobs: the overall unemployment rate fell to 6.4% in the second quarter of this year, the lowest since the end of 2008. There are 820,000 more people in work than a year ago. The number of young people out of work is 200,000 lower than last year, which is the biggest fall since records began 30 years ago. And the Bank of England has just upgraded its growth forecast for the UK this year from 3.4% to 3.5% and from 2.9% to 3% for next year. Good news for the Coalition.

But the Labourish piece of bad news is that real wages are shrinking. Today’s figures reveal that average weekly earnings excluding bonuses fell 0.2 per cent to £450 per week before tax in the three months to June. This is the first fall since 2009.The ONS explains that this was ‘mainly due to an unusually high growth rate for April 2013 as some employers who usually paid bonuses in March paid them in April last year’. Pay was 0.5 per cent higher for April to June 2014 than a year earlier, which is the lowest annual growth rate since records began in 2001.


The Tories will argue that more people in jobs is good news that Labour cannot disagree with. They’ll say it confounds Ed Balls’ gloomy predictions. Labour will say the Tories are out of touch and don’t appreciate the pressure on household finances. It’s enough for both of them to go on.

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 14.23.29

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 14.25.10

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • John O’Brien

    During the spend, spend, spend Labour years, we all became artificially richer than we should have been. Now low wage increases is the cost of Labour’s folly.

  • HookesLaw

    Its not bad news on wages. Wage restraint is preserving jobs its creating jobs. Would you rather have higher wages higher inflation and higher unemloyment? Would you rather have more people being poorer by being on the dole? Because of falling unemployment people are far better off than they would otherwise be. I would have thought even a thick Spectator journalist could work that out.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      You Camerloons can try explaining that to the electorate, lad. Pretty soon now, that will be the only group that matters for you lumps.

    • Jacques Strap

      Just bloody well treat people with respect.

  • Alexsandr

    Amazing. Hardman writes a piece about employment rates and makes no mention of immigration. Talk about half a job.

    • Blindsideflanker

      None of them ever do, they have been made to ‘debate’ immigration (not act on it) but having been made to debate it they do it in the most superficial way.

      One question you will never hear them ask a Minister, especially the BBC, is ‘Minister if you are so concerned about our housing shortage, why do you persist with an immigration driven population expansion policy?’

      And in relation to these figures, all the British Media and Political classes will be in complete incomprehension and wonderment that we can have rising employment yet falling real incomes. Their inquisitiveness as to why this should be makes callous indifference seem like being proactive.

    • Holly

      That’ll be the bit about the Bulgarians & Romanians now added to the mix.
      They tell us how great it is ‘cos they are in the ’employment’ numbers.
      Completely missing the bigger picture that BEFORE these were included our infrastructure was screaming under the pressure….But hey, at least they’ve found work eh.

  • Smithersjones2013

    Today’s figures reveal that average weekly earnings excluding bonuses
    fell 0.2 per cent to £450 per week before tax in the three months to

    Its amazing what you can achieve with an endless supply of cheap foreign Labour…….

  • Blindsideflanker

    Which came first the productivity or the wage growth?

    Employers say they cannot pay higher wages while productivity remains low, but of course they don’t have to invest in productivity while they have an over supplied labour market.

  • anyfool

    Stop all immigration, send back the illegals and the benefit claimants, empty the jails of foreign crooks, less people wanting a slice of the pie.
    Problem solved,

  • dado_trunking

    No one believes any of those figures and what they are supposed to signify anymore. Seriously – look on the streets, look into the malls of people power and note the size of their hand bags to understand how the economy is doing.

    • HJ777

      The size of their handbags?

      My mother always reckoned that there was an inverse relationship between someone’s wealth and the size of their purse. Is that what you mean?

    • Makroon

      Yes, only the tractor statistics cobbled together by the BrownBalls Ministry of Truth can be trusted, away with these so-called independent statistics agencies !!

  • sarahsmith232

    People have been saying for a fair old while now that GDP has become a meaningless stat’. This voteless recovery proves it.
    Still, it leaves the Tories in a slightly better position ’cause, as the governor of the Bank of England confirmed a few days ago when commenting on this – ‘Carney said that data on British wages had come in softer than expected’ – which Carney believed was ’cause when – “Taken in isolation the continuation of development on the wage front suggest to me … that there has been more spare capacity in the labour market than we previously had thought,”
    Or as pleb’ like myself would say it – there’s too many ****ing immigrants in the flipping country.
    So who’ll come off the worst for that come May 2015? Cameron has thrown away 3%/5% to Ukip because of not giving a toss about immigration. But then nobody is going to see Labour as the answer to there being ‘more spare capacity in the labour market’ than is good for anyone. The Tories minus Cameron as their leader might just about pip it though.

    • Makroon

      As long as the unemployment-making and growth-killing machine AKA “the Euro system” staggers on, we will have high immigration from Europe (and not much chance of closing the trade gap).

  • Ian Walker

    We’re creating loads of jobs, then filling them with cheap imported workers. This is not rocket science; it’s not even difficult economics. The law of supply and demand insists that the price of labour should be as low as possible, i.e. the legally proscribed minimum wage.

    The solution is equally obvious – stop importing the workers.

    • Makroon

      No, it’s not “rocket science” (whatever that is), it is just totally untrue.
      Go on the ONS website and see for yourself their breakdown of jobs by nationality/origin.
      Or maybe just continue with the same old cobblers – it will always be well-received on here.

    • HookesLaw

      We are not filling then with cheap imported workers. ‘There are 820,000 more people in work than a year ago. The number of
      young people out of work is 200,000 lower than last year, which is the
      biggest fall since records began 30 years ago.’ Jobs are going to British workers
      ‘Over 90% of new UK jobs taken by British nationals .’

      ‘British nationals accounted for 367,000 of the 425,000 extra people in work over the past year, Home Office figures show’

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …so basically, you’re acknowledging that 14% of the extra people in work over the past year are foreigners. And the % of foreigners in low-skilled jobs is likely far greater than that, as Mr. Walker implies. You have done nothing to counter his suggestion, but have helped confirm it.

        • Ian Walker

          It’s not just the numbers of jobs. Weekend work used to be the route for teenagers to learn a bit of responsibility and earn a bit of pocket money.

          Now, weekend work is almost always taken up by adults from three categories:

          1) Elderly people trying to supplement their pensions
          2) Foreign low-skilled workers who are trying to earn every penny they can
          3) The people who used to only work weekdays are now having to take on extra hours because wages haven’t increased in line with inflation.

          Zero-hour contracts are another symptom – the way to get rid of them is not to legislate, but to create the market conditions where labour is a scarce resource and employers have to offer incentives better than “We’ll pay you the minimum wage for variable hours of work”

  • LadyDingDong

    Because Labtard under Brown, Balls and Milllliband screwed the economy I have taken a 100% cut in earnings in order to keep my staff employed. I could have cut a few jobs and continued to pay myself but then I am not a union boss, running a state-supported charity, or an MP. My staff are grateful that they are employed and the recovery will mean a return to me paying close to 50% of my income to support those millions whose housing benefits and welfare has made this country such a powerhouse of enterprise and achievement.

    • telemachus

      My heart bleeds
      Your profits roared away in the good times and funded the capital imput you took from the business and put into your expensive homes
      Your workers supported all that and not being slung onto the streets with the wobble induced when Lehman blew in is the least they deserve
      You should get down on your knees in thanks that Darling and Brown saved our own and US banks from a Lehman inspired collapse that would have left you without a business

      • fundamentallyflawed

        Welcome to socialist Britain.. can you get on your knees and open wide or drop your trousers and bend over so the likes of millionaire families Ed Miliband and Ed Balls shaft you silly while telling you its all your own fault

      • Ooh!MePurse!

        Telemachus versus Lady DingDong is a debate that I would pay to see. She would reduce him to a dried up old worm husk.

      • ButcombeMan

        Your economic illiteracy is as bad as that of “The Great Leader” producer of the “Big Brown Mess”., the glowering “psychologically flawed” madman, who threw phones.

        After saying he had “abolished boom and bust”, he delberately engineered the daddy of all booms, buying votes from the gullible and we have reaped the consequences, in the Brown recession.

        Britain under Brown was living beyond its means. Now is payback time.

    • Ooh!MePurse!

      Thank heavens that there are people like you in our country. Thank you for all that you do for the benefit of us all.

  • Holly

    Labour will, no doubt continue tell us that higher wages with fewer employees, higher taxes for those who can’t employ a bod to dodge them, and more folks getting state handouts was a much better way to run the economy.

    • Smithersjones2013

      No they will just continue to flood the employment market with cheap foreign labour just as the Coalition has and just as Labour did when they were last in power

      • Holly

        Just like I said.
        Vote Labour, why work eh?

  • swatnan

    At last, the few savings I have are going to show a profit. Lets hope the Stock Market picks up before I have to cash in the policy. At the moment I’ll only get a quarter of what I was promised 20 opdd years ago. And that is not fair. I’ve been saving like millions of others and making a complete loss.

  • Som Trivedi

    Static wage pile being distributed among more and more ‘workers’.

    More people ‘working’ and everyones the poorer for it. Socialism innit?

    • the viceroy’s gin

      As they used to say in the USSR: “We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.”

  • Shinsei1967

    It’s looking increasingly likely the poor wage growth numbers are primarily caused by a compositional effect. More low paid workers are being taken on and so overall average wages gets diluted.

  • Blindsideflanker

    So its confirmed we have a low wage, low productivity, low value economy, that requires lots of ‘hard working’ immigrants to stack supermarket shelves, wait on the rich in their fancy restaurants, clean their hotel rooms and clean their cars for £5 a time.

    • Som Trivedi

      In Newham (an impoverished part of East London, 20 minutes on the tube to the City), you can get a 20-min haircut (proper one, not just a trim) for £4.99, £4 for OAPs. I kid you not.

      Maybe someplace Mark Simmonds could’ve afforded to live on his meagre taxpayer-funded income?

      • pointlesswasteoftime

        No, Newham is a bit…. rough?… for the likes of him. The hoi polloi might actually touch him. Ugh.

        • Archibald Heatherington

          You mean “hoi polloi might actually touch him”. “Hoi” (οί) means “the”, so you’ve written “the the many”, which doesn’t read terribly well.

          • pointlesswasteoftime

            Hoi polloi (Ancient Greek: οἱ πολλοί, hoi polloi, “the many”), is an expression from Greek that means the many or, in the strictest sense,the majority. In English, it means the working class, commoners, the masses or common people in a derogatory sense.

            Its current English usage originated in the early 19th century, a time when it was generally accepted that one must be familiar with Greek and Latin in order to be considered well educated.[3][4][5] The phrase was originally written in Greek letters.[6][7][8] Knowledge of these languages served to set apart the speaker from hoi polloi in question, who were not similarly educated.

            Wikipedia… you make its point well.

            • Archibald Heatherington

              Well, as I have Latin and Greek I thought I might as well let you know your mistake – we are learning all the time, after all.

              • pointlesswasteoftime

                We are. Thank you.

    • telemachus

      Are we not fortunate that we have access to that pool of labour

      • Matthew Stevens

        So you’re in favour of mass immigration in order to exploit the cheap labour of those desperate enough to come here and hard-working enough to make a living off a salary as low as that?

        What do you do for a living character? I can only assume you’re in a very privileged position if that is what your support for immigration is based upon.

        • telemachus

          I have both immigrant and indiginous on my books and am impressed particularly by the hard working Poles
          And yes if immigrants put a rocket up,the indiginous it is all to the good
          As well as the general benefits in rejuvenating the Nation

          • Alexsandr

            wonder what the white people in Dewsbury think about their rejuvenation.

          • Alexandrovich

            I bet the ‘hard working poles’ are not impressed by you spending twenty-three hours a day on the computer.
            (It would appear.)

      • Colonel Mustard

        Yes, so fortunate. This poor man felt the enrichment:-

        “A burglary victim was left with “life-changing” injuries after intruders stormed into his family home. The 55-year-old man was beaten and left “seriously injured and traumatised” by four men wearing balaclavas, who forced their way into his Wimbledon home. Scotland Yard said the men – believed to be Eastern European – burst into the address after the homeowner answered a knock at his door just before 10pm on Monday.”

        • Agrippina

          They are said to be recent arrivals from Poland. 2 men were caught at the scene and 2 fled. Police here are asking their polish counterparts for assistance as the 2 in custody are unknown to them. Surely not, we are always told the brightest and the best come here!

      • Alexsandr

        no. it is depressing wages for those already here. Why labour don’t get the ‘cost of living crisis’ is because of their open door immigration is beynd me.

        • telemachus

          The major benefit to the economy and driving up GDP outweigh any of your bleatings

          • Alexsandr

            driving up GDP isnt enough. You need GDP/capita to rise, and it isnt. its flat. too many people trying to get a slice of the cake.,

      • The Masked Marvel

        Why the hatred of your fellow Brits? You have a pool of labour getting fat on benefits for a generation now. Why do you wish to condemn another generation to this limbo of existence? Have you no heart?

    • katkel

      It’s not immigrants that are forcing down wages, its all these people who were on benefits but have been harassed by the Jobcentre into taking any crappy job that they’re offered, topping up the unliveable wages with tax credits and housing benefits. Not to mention all these “self employed” types cutting hedges and cleaning houses for £2 an hour so they can still be entitled to housing benefit, putting real gardeners, decorators, hairdressers, cleaners and delivery drivers out of business.

      It’s all very well demanding that everybody gets a job, but when there aren’t any real new jobs being created in the economy it just means that the rest of us end up getting paid less.

    • andagain

      I’d rather have high employment than high wages.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        I’d rather have high wages and low social welfare benefits. That would lead to high employment, the best of all worlds.

  • Mark McIntyre

    Now then – stop persecuting us scroungers who be more than happy with our lot in life !
    Let those who want to work – work.
    Let those who want to scrounge – scrounge.