On the face of it, the good news for the British government keeps on coming. Britain’s economy grew surprisingly fast last year and inflation fell below the Bank of England’s target for the first time in over four years in January. The government this month even got a nod from the International Monetary Fund which only last year criticized its austerity programme.
The latest confidence boost came from jobless figures on Wednesday. Not only did the unemployment rate fall to a five-year low of 6.9 percent but pay growth caught up with inflation for the first time in nearly four years. That provides Prime Minister David Cameron’s government with another lift ahead of the 2015 elections, after it has come under fire from the Labour opposition for overseeing a fall in living standards.
But a closer look at the data suggests a more nuanced picture.
Indeed, total pay growth in February reached 1.7 percent – matching the 1.7 percent rise in consumer prices in February and above their 1.6 percent increase in March.
But excluding bonuses, wage growth was 1.4 percent – below consumer price readings for February and March.
Now for the record high number of people in employment at 30.389 million – that was fueled by a record number of self-employed workers, many of whom a recent survey showed would prefer to be employed by someone else.