The latest jobs and pay data released by the Office for National Statistics today provide little by way of comfort about the economy or, more specifically, for those in the construction industry.
There was an improvement in the numbers employed with 50,000 more in employment over the past three months to May and 26,000 fewer were counted as unemployed.
But we have seen a continued rise in the claimant count. And annual pay rose at an annual rate of just 2.3%, which is still well below inflation. Meanwhile, the latest stats on average wages suggest pay remains more under pressure among construction workers.
If we look at the calculation of the total actual weekly hours worked we see it dropped by 2% on the quarter and stood in June at a level 0.8% below a year ago.
And the vacancy figures also provide cause for concern, showing little sign of improvement over recent months. If the private sector is to mop up workers shed from the public sector, then it will require opportunities to open up. But the vacancy figures are 5.5% down on a year ago.
And if we look at the vacancy figures for construction, they too are at very low levels and have fallen away since the start of this year.
The labour market figures all point to rather insipid growth and support the fears that the Government’s growth forecast may be too optimistic.
The consensus forecast for GDP of leading banks and independent bodies recorded by the Treasury has been steadily falling. In March when the Office for Budget Responsibility penned in 1.7% as its central forecast for growth this year and 2.5% for 2012, the consensus stood at 1.8% this year and 2.1% next year.
In the months since, the consensus forecast for GDP growth this year dropped in April to 1.7%, in May to 1.6% and in June to 1.5%, while the projection for next year has remained below the OBR figure at 2.1%. Since then there has been more trimming of the forecasts for growth.