The UK’s jobless rate hit its lowest level since 1975 – but average earnings continued to lag behind inflation in the three months to June, official figures show.
Wages grew by 2.1% compared with the same period last year, the Office for National Statistics said.
This is a slight increase on the previous March to May quarter, when the ONS revised down its preliminary figure to 1.9%.
However, once inflation is taken into account, total pay in real terms sank by 0.5% both including and excluding bonuses.
It comes a day after official data showed inflation remained unchanged in July at 2.6%. Economists had expected it to climb to 2.7%.
Image: The rate of inflation remained unchanged in July at 2.6%
The figures are significant as they show a continuation in the squeeze on living costs, largely thanks to the collapse in the pound following the Brexit vote, which makes imported goods more expensive.
Inflation remained static because increased food, clothing and electricity costs were offset by a drop in fuel prices.
As pay growth picked up pace, employment reached an all-time high, the ONS said.
The number of people in work is at its highest level since records began in 1971, rising by 125,000 to 32.07 million in the three months to June, with the employment rate climbing by 0.3% to a record 75.1%.
Unemployment fell by 57,000 to 1.48 million during the same period – a 42-year low – while the claimant count dropped by 4,200 in July to 807,800, figures showed.
Analysts said the dats was unlikely to persuade the Bank of England to finally put up interest rates.
Image: Pay growth has picked up pace, but continues to lag behind inflation
Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to the EY Item Club, said: “Worryingly for consumers, higher employment is still not translating into higher pay.
“Anaemic earnings growth is a key factor arguing against any near-term Bank of England interest rate hike.”
Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said: “The weak rate of wage increases is baffling economists and central bankers alike.
“Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, has frequently cited accelerating wage growth as a possible trigger for the long-awaited increase in UK base rates but today’s figures are hardly likely to persuade the Monetary Policy Committee that the UK economy is overheating and in need of higher borrowing costs.”
Employment Minister Damian Hinds told Sky News: “We are doing many things to help families with the cost of living, and ultimately of course, what helps to drive forward wage growth is productivity and that’s why you see so much focus on developing the skills base, the apprenticeship programme.
“We are bringing more people out of tax altogether … a big investment going into childcare, including the doubling of the provision for three to four-year-olds – all of these things are very important for supporting household budgets.”