Real earnings sink to decade-low but some see pay pick up

Broad survey of incomes shows two sides of story
By William Schomberg
||Last Updated: 11/20/2014

LONDON (Reuters) — Workers' real earnings fell to levels not seen in more than a decade in the 12 months to April but there were also signs of above-inflation wage growth for many employees, a broad survey of incomes showed.

Adjusted for inflation, weekly earnings dropped by 1.6 percent, the Office for National Statistics said, figures that the opposition Labour party said showed the failure of the government's economic record.

Inflation-adjusted earnings have fallen every year since 2008 and are now at levels last seen in the early 2000s, the ONS said, citing its Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings.

An increase of one pound ($1.57) in median gross weekly earnings for full-time employees represented the smallest annual growth since the ASHE records began in 1997, it said.

Labour lawmakers, who plan to campaign ahead of national elections next May on promises to restore living standards, sent out messages on Twitter highlighting the fall in inflation-adjusted earnings.

But finance minister George Osborne pointed to other details in the survey, saying an average 4.1 percent rise in pay for people who have been in their job for more than a year and a fall in the gap in pay for men and women to its narrowest on record showed his economic plan was working.

The difference between the weak overall earnings growth and the stronger figure for people in work for over a year could reflect the creation of many low-paid jobs, one of the factors behind the sharp fall in British unemployment since last year.

Osborne and Prime Minister David Cameron hope that signs of a pick-up in weekly earnings in recent months combined with a fall in inflation to nearly a five-year low will help convince voters to give them a second term in the elections.

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