As the days shorten and Christmas appears on the horizon, we outline the annual figures released by the Office for National Statistics that capture the average weekly earnings for UK workers over the past year.
Data is drawn from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings* and also provides an indication of the gender pay gap for 2019.
Real terms median increase of earnings is lower than a decade ago
The weekly earnings for full-time employees reached £585 in April 2019, an increase of 2.9 per cent since April 2018. However, if this is adjusted to reflect inflation, in real terms the median increase in earnings is 0.9 per cent. The effect is that median weekly earnings in real terms are still 2.9 per cent lower (£18 lower) than the peak in 2008 of £603, before the recession. This reflects that the rate of growth is nowhere near the levels experienced before the financial crisis.
Fewer pay decreases and pay freezes
Between April 2018 and April 2019, 35.7 per cent of full time employees have experienced a real-term pay decrease or pay freeze, a reduction from 43.3 per cent in the period one year beforehand. This also markedly contrasts to 2011 when it was 60.5 per cent. The number of pay decreases and freezes was remarkably low between 2014 and 2015 at 26.3 per cent, which may be partly attributed to low inflation rates that year.
Since 1997, the biggest increase in median weekly earnings for full-time employees was for those working in Scotland (91.4 per cent) and the smallest increase was for those in Wales (78 per cent), showing the regional variation in the pay picture. Weekly earnings in London are £152 higher (at £736) than the UK average (£584.90).
‘Pay-rise premium’ for changing jobs
Consistent with our observations in Paydata’s UK Reward Management Survey, employers are having to offer significantly higher salaries to attract talent. The annual percentage change in hourly earnings for job stayers was 1.6 per cent compared to eight per cent accessed by job changers. This suggests that there is a stronger pressure to increase wages compared to previous years because of this movement in the labour market.
Changes in the labour market
The National Living Wage has made a notable impact on pay levels for lower earners who experienced a growth of at least four times the rate of the UK’s top earners. The bottom tenth of earners experienced the biggest pay increase of three per cent in contrast to the top tenth of earners who received a 0.1 per cent pay rise.
The median number of working hours for full and part time jobs has been stable, with 39.1 hours per week being the average for full-time employees. There has been a decline in the number of hours worked overtime. Mean paid overtime hours have fallen from 2.2 hours per week in 1997 to 0.9 hours in 2019. The number of full-time employees who work overtime has decreased from 28 per cent in 1997 to 16.5 per cent in 2019. This may reflect the general decline in the number of jobs available in the manufacturing industry where working overtime is more commonplace. 42.7 per cent of process, plant and machine operatives were offered overtime in contrast 7.6 per cent of managers, directors and senior officials.
Gender pay gap shows incremental progress