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Feb UK Unemployment Up to 3.9% as Wage Growth Slows to 5.6%

Feb UK Unemployment Up to 3.9% as Wage Growth Slows to 5.6%

The UK’s labor market report released on Tuesday offered mixed signals for the Bank of England (BoE) as it grapples with balancing inflation and economic growth. While wage growth remained elevated, exceeding expectations, the UK Unemployment rate ticked up slightly, and employment levels fell short of forecasts.

UK Unemployment Edges Up to 3.9%

The report revealed a rise in UK unemployment from 3.8% to 3.9%, exceeding economist predictions of a steady 3.8%. This, coupled with a 21,000 decline in employment following a December increase of 72,000, painted a picture of a slightly cooling labor market. Economists had anticipated a further rise in employment of 10,000.

Wage Growth Remains Elevated Despite Slowdown

Despite the rise in unemployment, average earnings, including bonuses, grew by 5.6% year-over-year in the three months to January. This figure, although slightly lower than the forecasted 5.7% increase, still indicates a significant rise in wages. The December report had shown a 5.8% increase in average earnings.

Office for National Statistics Reports Broader Trends

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) data provided further context to the labor market situation. The UK Claimant Count, a measure of people claiming unemployment benefits, rose by 16,000 in February and a substantial 85,800 year-over-year. Additionally, job vacancies declined by 43,000 from December 2023 to February 2024, suggesting a potential slowdown in hiring activity. However, it’s important to note that vacancies remain above pre-pandemic levels.

Bank of England Policy Implications

The mixed data from the labor market report presents a challenge for the BoE. While the rise in unemployment and softer wage growth figures suggest a cooling labor market, the BoE might still consider overall wage growth to be elevated. This could lead them to maintain a hawkish stance on interest rates to combat inflation.

BoE Member Signals Continued Focus on Inflation

Adding to this pressure, BoE Monetary Policy Committee member Catherine Mann recently emphasized the bank’s commitment to bringing inflation down to its 2% target. She noted that current inflation levels, particularly in the services sector, are still far from the historical relationship consistent with the target.

Labor Market Data Could Influence BoE Rhetoric

The labor market data, despite the softer wage growth figures, might not be enough to sway the BoE towards a dovish shift in its monetary policy rhetoric in the immediate future. However, it could raise hopes for a change in stance later as the labor market cools further.

Investor Reaction and US CPI Report in Focus

The GBP/USD currency pair displayed a muted response to the UK labor market data, fluctuating slightly before settling marginally lower. Investor focus will now shift to the US CPI report later today. A higher-than-expected inflation figure in the US could further dampen hopes for an interest rate cut from the Federal Reserve in the first half of 2024.

also Read: February Inflation Preview: US CPI Seen Steady at 3.1%, Core Down to 3.7%


The UK Unemployment report presented a mixed bag for the BoE. While a slight rise in unemployment and a slowdown in wage growth suggest a cooling labor market, the overall picture remains somewhat robust. The Bank of England will likely maintain a cautious stance, closely monitoring inflation data and economic developments before considering a shift in its monetary policy. Investor attention will now turn to the US CPI report, which could significantly impact global markets.


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