UK consumer spending likely to slow, not collapse
During the three months ended February, employment grew by around 39,000, which was enough to keep annual employment growth at a fairly solid 1%. Business surveys suggest the trend will be maintained in the current months, the economist noted.
The unemployment rate held steady at 4.7% in February, at its joint-lowest level since 1975.
The recent jobless rate was not far above the Bank of England's estimate of the equilibrium rate of unemployment of around 4.5%, Hollingsworth pointed out.
"However, despite the tightening of the labor market, wage growth remains fairly subdued," the economist said.
Annual growth in average weekly earnings picked up from 2.0% in January to 2.9% in February, keeping the headline three-month average rate at 2.3%.
Hollingsworth said a large pick-up in bonus pay on the month was behind the latest sharp improvement in the earnings growth figure.
Ex-bonus, pay growth fell back from 2.2% to 1.9%, below the 2.3% rate of CPI inflation that month ■