In Brief

Average wages above their pre-financial crisis level

Resolution Foundation says weekly wages would have been £141 higher without crash

Average weekly wages in the UK have reached their highest levels since before the economic crisis.

Weekly pay reached £512 in the three months to December. Adjusting for inflation, this is the highest since March 2008.

The Guardian describes it as a “significant moment after a lost decade for British workers” but pundits and organisations have been quick to put the news in perspective.

Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the TUC, said: “Today’s wages figures are nothing to celebrate after a decade of terrible wage growth.”

The Resolution Foundation welcomed the news but calculated that wages would have been about £141 per week higher if the pre-crisis trend for wage growth had continued.

“The fact that is has taken 12 years to get to this point shows what a living standards disaster our pay packets have been,” said a spokesperson.

John Philpott, the director of the Jobs Economist consultancy, said: “Employees can be said only to have limped back to their pre-crisis pay level.”

“There's always a half-full or a half-empty angle on wage increases,” said the BBC’s economics correspondent, Andy Verity.

He dug into the maths of the news, explaining: “The average wage excluding bonuses is now £511.61. In March 2008, the average wage would have bought you £510.96 (in 2019 prices). In other words you are 65p better off than you were - 12 years ago.”

City AM says the annual rate of wage growth has slowed in recent months from a peak growth rate of 3.9% between May and July 2019. It dropped to 3.2% between August and October, and now the rate is less than half that.

Nevertheless, analyst Chris Beauchamp welcomed the wages milestone, saying it “will be heralded as a new dawn for the British workforce”.

Combined with healthy job figures the news boosted the pound after it had slipped below $1.30 in early trading after the UK’s warning to the European Union in trade deal talks. Sterling then rose 0.28% to stand at $1.3039.

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