The Office for National Statistics has just published the provisional findings of the 2013 Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE). There are a number of surprises and puzzles.
The growth in median weekly earnings of 2.6% for all employee jobs (full-time and part-time) between spring 2012 and spring 2013 is considerably higher than the corresponding figure of 1% pay growth indicated by the ONS’ average weekly earnings statistics. The median increase for part-timers (3.1%) was higher than that for full-timers (2.2%), while median hourly earnings increased by 3.4% for part-timers and 2% for full-timers. Although the ASHE findings show pay growing more slowly than CPI inflation (2.4% in April 2013) they therefore suggest a less severe average real pay squeeze and a more limited cost of living crisis than previously thought.
The still very wide hourly pay gap between the top and bottom 10% of earners stabilized last year (both groups seeing a 1.5% pay increase between 2011 and 2012) but middle earners did better, median hourly earnings rising by 2%. The ‘squeezed middle’ were thus less squeezed than higher and lower earners last year. However, the hourly gender pay gap for full-time employees widened again, up from 9.5% to 10%. And median weekly earnings grew by more for private sector (2.3%) than for public sector (1.6%) workers.
A particularly puzzling feature of the ASHE findings is that they show growth in median weekly pay across the UK regions between 2012 and 2013 to be a mirror image of regional unemployment rates, with unemployment hot spots registering the biggest pay rises. For example, the North East (3.5%), West Midlands (3.3%) and Wales (4.4%) saw much stronger pay growth than regions with less unemployment, with the South East registering no pay growth at all. While the reasons for this require much closer examination – and remember pay levels are higher in low unemployment regions - the much commented upon post-recession tendency for workers to ‘price themselves into jobs’ does not therefore appear to be evident for all regions in these latest data.