More in work but inflation hits earnings

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More workers were on company payrolls in Northumberland last month than before the coronavirus pandemic, new figures show.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show 131,904 people in the area were on company payrolls in February – over 4,000 more than in February 2020 when the total was 127,995.

The figure is also 6,223 more than in the same month last year, when 125,681 people were on payrolls

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Nationally, the number of payrolled workers increased by 275,000 to 29.7 million but official figures show employees have seen the steepest fall in real wages for more than seven years, after earnings failed to keep up with price hikes.

Different ONS figures show average earnings, excluding bonuses, rose by 3.8% in the three months to January but failed to keep up with price increases due to record inflation – meaning they fell by one per cent in real terms – the steepest decline seen since July 2014.

In April, bills are expected to rocket for the average household when the energy price cap rises.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak acknowledged concerns over the rising cost of living ahead of his spring statement on March 23.

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He said: "Thanks to the unprecedented economic support we've provided, we've now seen a year of falling unemployment and a stronger jobs market bounce back than so many predicted."

Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, said: "We need a plan to get wages rising, a boost to Universal Credit and a windfall tax on oil and gas profits – with the money used for energy grants for hard-pressed families."