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Wage growth nears 11-year high but hiring slows

Average wage growth has accelerated to levels not seen since July 2008, according to official figures.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said earnings, excluding the effects of bonuses, rose by 3.6% on an annual basis in the three months to May – beating the forecasts of economists.

When bonuses were included, the percentage figure rose to 3.4% from 3.2% a month earlier.

The data suggests a boost to household spending power as the rate of inflation, due to be updated on Wednesday, currently stands at 2%.

Bad weather and online buying have been blamed for fall in shoppers on the high street
Image: Consumer spending has been constrained despite wage growth outpacing inflation

But the latest employment figures also betrayed a possible early sign that the jobs market – resilient since the EU vote in 2016 – may be showing a sign of stress as the clock ticks down to the next Brexit deadline of Halloween and the world economy slows because of the US-China trade war.

Employment growth slowed to its weakest level since August last year with 28,000 positions created over the three months though the jobless rate remained at 3.8%.

The ONS released its findings at a time when closely-watched surveys of companies have pointed to growing caution over hiring.

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The latest research from recruitment firm Reed showed a 2.3% decline in jobs advertised in the second quarter of the year – the largest drop since 2010.

It blamed political and economic uncertainty as the Conservatives prepare to choose the country’s next prime minister – a leader set to preside over the ultimate fate of Brexit.

Commenting on the ONS figures, employment minister Alok Sharma said: “Wages outpacing inflation for 16 months in a row, more people in work than ever before and joint-record female employment, means better prospects for many thousands of UK families and shows the continued resilience of the UK labour market.”

But he conceded in an interview with Sky News that continued uncertainty over Brexit was dragging on investment – and therefore UK economic growth.

He said: “It’s not good for business, it’s not good for government so I think Boris Johnson’s right.

“We have this hard deadline (of) 31st October. We leave, hopefully with a deal, if not without a deal”.

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