UK jobs growth surges as labor market defies Brexit nerves

The number of people in work surged by 222,000, helping to push down the unemployment rate to 3.9 percent. (Reuters)
Updated 19 March 2019
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UK jobs growth surges as labor market defies Brexit nerves

  • With the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU still unclear, many businesses have cut long-term investment in equipment
  • The strength of the labor market is pushing up wages more quickly

LONDON: British employers ramped up their hiring at the fastest pace in more than three years in the three months to January as the country’s labor market defied the broader weakness in the overall economy as Brexit approached.
The number of people in work surged by 222,000, helping to push down the unemployment rate to 3.9 percent, its lowest since the start of 1975, official data showed.
A Reuters poll of economists had pointed to a rise in employment of 120,000.
With the terms of Britain’s exit from the European Union still unclear, many businesses have cut long-term investment in equipment, potentially making them more likely to hire workers who can be sacked if the economy sours.
The strength of the labor market is pushing up wages more quickly.
Total earnings, including bonuses, rose by an annual 3.4 percent in the three months to January, the Office for National Statistics said, stronger than a median forecast of 3.2 percent in the Reuters poll.
Wage growth for the three months to December was revised up slightly to 3.5 percent, its highest since mid-2008.
Average weekly earnings, excluding bonuses, also rose by 3.4 percent on the year, in line with the Reuters poll.


Oil prices near 2019 highs after US ends all Iran sanction exemptions

Updated 36 min 3 sec ago
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Oil prices near 2019 highs after US ends all Iran sanction exemptions

  • Iran’s main oil buyers initially received sanction exemptions
  • US reiterates its goal to cut Iran oil exports to zero

SINGAPORE: Oil prices were near 2019 highs on Tuesday after Washington announced all Iran sanction waivers would end by May, pressuring importers to stop buying from Tehran.
Brent crude futures were at $74.40 per barrel at 0239 GMT, up 0.5 percent from their last close and not far off a 2019 peak of $74.52 reached on Monday.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures hit their highest level since October 2018 at $65.95 per barrel before edging back to $65.89 by 0239 GMT, which was still up 0.5 percent from their last settlement.
The United States on Monday demanded that buyers of Iranian oil stop purchases by May 1 or face sanctions, ending six months of waivers which allowed Iran’s eight biggest buyers, most of them in Asia, to continue importing limited volumes.
Before the reimposition of sanctions last year, Iran was the fourth-largest producer among the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) at almost 3 million barrels per day (bpd), but April exports have shrunk well below 1 million bpd, according to ship tracking and analyst data in Refinitiv.
Barclay’s bank said in a note following the announcement that the decision took many market participants by surprise and that the move would “lead to a significant tightening of oil markets.”
The British bank added that Washington’s target to cut Iran oil exports to zero posed a “material upside risk to our current $70 per barrel average price forecast for Brent this year, compared with the year-to-date average of $65 per barrel.”
ANZ bank said in a note on Tuesday that “the decision is likely to worsen the ongoing supply woes being felt with Venezuelan sanctions, the OPEC supply cut, and intensifying conflict in Libya.”
The move to tighten Iran sanctions comes amid other sanctions Washington has placed on Venezuela’s oil exports and also as producer club OPEC has led supply cuts since the start of the year aimed at tightening global oil markets and propping up crude prices.
Ellen Wald, non-resident senior fellow at the Global Energy Center of the Atlantic Council, said the United States “seem to expect” Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to replace the Iranian oil, but she added “that this is not necessarily the way Saudi Arabia sees it.”
Saudi Arabia is the world’s biggest exporter of crude oil and OPEC’s de-facto leader. The group is set to meet in June to discuss its output policy.
“Should OPEC decide to end their supply cut program going into the second half of the year, this could limit oil’s upside in the coming months,” said Lukman Otunuga, analyst at futures brokerage FXTM.
Meanwhile, the Atlantic Council said the US move would hurt Iranian citizens.
“We’re going to see their currency collapse more, more unemployment, more inflation,” said Barbara Slavin, director for the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council, adding that the US sanctions were “not going to bring Iran back to the (nuclear) negotiating table.”