United Kingdom unemployment edges up to 4.4%

Norway Jobless Rate Rises 0.1% in December

Unemployment rises at sharpest rate for nearly five years

Mediocre nominal wage increases which may discourage Bank of England rate setters from raising interest rates again in May.

However, the ONS noted that the numbers of people in work continued to rise over the quarter, increasing by 88,000, and that there was a 109,000 fall in the number of people classed as economically inactive, which helped boost the jobless rate.

The jobless rate - or the proportion of the workforce that is unemployed - stood at 4.4% in the three months to the end of Dec, the Office for National Statistics said in a statement.

"The absence of wage growth remains the missing piece of the puzzle in the UK's slow road to economic recovery - high employment should be the worker's best friend because that's what pushes up wages".

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Prior to the data, markets had widely expected the Bank of England to raise its key lending rate in May, by a quarter-point to 0.75%, following a small hike a year ago.

Average weekly earnings for employees in nominal terms (not adjusted for inflation) increased by 2.5% including and excluding bonuses. This increase remained below inflation.

In December alone, total pay jumped by 2.8 percent, up from 2.3 percent in November. The number in unemployment rose by 46,000 to 1.47 million compared the previous three months. Central-bank forecasts show unemployment averaging 4.2% in the coming quarters, below the 4.25% rate officials say the economy can sustain without generating inflationary pressure.

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