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

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.


UK retailer Debenhams goes into the red again

Updated 10 April 2020

UK retailer Debenhams goes into the red again

  • Debenhams’ 142 UK stores are closed with Britain in coronavirus lockdown

LONDON: British department store group Debenhams went into administration for the second time in 12 months on Thursday, seeking to protect itself from legal action by creditors during the coronavirus crisis that could have pushed it into liquidation.

With Britain in lockdown during the pandemic, Debenhams’ 142 UK stores are closed, while the majority of its 22,000 workers are being paid under the government’s furlough scheme. It continues to trade online.

The retailer went into administration for a first time in April last year, wiping out equity investors including Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct, and is now owned by a lenders consortium called Celine UK NewCo. 

Debenhams said administrators from FRP Advisory would work with the existing management team to get the UK business into a position to re-open and trade from as many stores as possible when restrictions are lifted by the government.

Chief Executive Stefaan Vansteenkiste said that he anticipated the firm’s owners and lenders would make additional funding available to fund the administration period.

However, the group’s business in Ireland looks doomed.

Debenhams said that it expected administrators to appoint a liquidator to the 11-store Irish operation, which employs 2,000.

The moves makes Debenhams the first major retail casualty of the health crisis in Ireland, where the government, as in the UK, has closed all non-essential shops.

Ireland on Monday reported a trebling of its unemployment rate to 16.5 percent with a further surge expected later in the month.

“We are desperately sorry not to be able to keep the Irish business operating but are faced with no alternative option in the current environment,” said Vansteenkiste.