Employment in Wigan above pre-pandemic levels

Thousands more workers were on company payrolls in Wigan last month than before the coronavirus pandemic, new figures show.

But it comes as official figures show employees across the UK have seen the steepest fall in real wages for more than seven years, after earnings failed to keep up with price hikes.

Office for National Statistics figures show 146,354 people in Wigan were on company payrolls in February.

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This was up from 142,982 in February 2020, before the pandemic, and 5,923 more than in the same month last year, when 140,431 people were on payrolls.

Thousands more Wigan people have jobs than did before the pandemic

The number of workers on UK payrolls increased by 275,000 month-on-month, to 29.7 million.

Different ONS figures show average earnings, excluding bonuses, rose by 3.8 per cent in the three months to January.

But they failed to keep up with price increases due to record inflation that month, meaning they fell by one per cent in real terms – the steepest decline seen since July 2014.

In April, bills are expected to rise by more than 50 per cent for the average household when the energy price cap rises.

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak acknowledged concerns over the rising cost of living ahead of his spring statement on March 23, but said the labour market is in a strong position.

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Mr Sunak 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.

"I am confident that our labour market is in a good position to deal with the current global challenges, with payrolled employee numbers above pre-pandemic levels in every nation and region and redundancies at record lows."

However, the Government has faced criticism over the level of support it has offered.

Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, said working people deserve financial security and a wage they can live on.

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"The Government must use the spring statement to act," Mrs O'Grady added.

"We need a plan to get wages rising in all jobs, a boost to Universal Credit, and a windfall tax on oil and gas profits – with the money raised going to energy grants for hard-pressed families."

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