Average weekly earnings in Great Britain: January 2020

Estimates of growth in earnings for employees before tax and other deductions from pay.

This is not the latest release. View latest release

This is an accredited national statistic.

Contact:
Email Roger Smith

Release date:
21 January 2020

Next release:
18 February 2020

1. Other pages in this release

Other commentary from the latest labour market data can be found on the following pages:

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2. Main points for September to November 2019

  • Estimated annual growth in average weekly earnings for employees in Great Britain remained unchanged at 3.2% for total pay (including bonuses), and slowed to 3.4% from 3.5% for regular pay (excluding bonuses).

  • The annual growth in total pay was weakened by unusually high bonus payments paid in October 2018 compared with more typical average bonus payments paid in October 2019.

  • In real terms (after adjusting for inflation), annual growth in total pay is estimated to be 1.6%, and annual growth in regular pay is estimated to be 1.8%.

  • Annual growth in total pay remains weakest in the wholesaling, retailing, hotels and restaurants sector, at 1.8%, and the manufacturing sector at 2.6%.

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The estimates in this bulletin come from a survey of businesses. It is not possible to survey every business each month, so these statistics are estimates based on a sample, not precise figures.

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3. Analysis of average weekly earnings

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The earnings estimates are not just a measure of pay rises as they also reflect changes in the number of paid hours worked and changes in the structure of the workforce, for example, more high-paid jobs would have an upward effect on earnings growth rates.

The rate of pay growth trended upwards from spring 2017, reaching 3.9% in May to July 2019, the highest nominal pay growth rate since 2008. However, in September to November 2019, growth dropped to 3.2% for total pay and 3.4% for regular pay. The growth in total pay is impacted downwards by unusually high bonuses having been paid in October 2018, whereas those in October 2019 are at more typical levels.

In real terms, annual pay growth has been positive since December 2017 to February 2018, and is now 1.6% for total pay (compared with 1.5% last month) and 1.8% for regular pay (unchanged from last month).

For November 2019, average regular pay, before tax and other deductions, for employees in Great Britain was estimated at £511 per week in nominal terms. The figure in real terms (constant 2015 prices) is £472 per week, which is still £1 (0.2%) lower than the pre-economic downturn peak of £473 per week in March 2008.

The equivalent figures for total pay in real terms are £503 per week in November 2019 and £525 in February 2008, a 4.1% difference.

Between September to November 2018 and September to November 2019, average pay growth varied by industry sector:

  • construction saw the highest estimated growth at 4.4% for total pay and 4.6% for regular pay

  • wholesaling, retailing, hotels and restaurants saw the lowest growth, estimated at 1.8 for total pay and 2.1% for regular pay; this is the sector with the lowest average weekly pay (£339 regular pay compared with £511 across the whole economy)

The pattern of higher growth in construction, and finance and business services, and lower growth in manufacturing, and wholesaling, retailing, hotels and restaurants has been evident throughout 2019.

Between September to November 2018 and September to November 2019, total pay in the public sector grew by 3.3%, compared with 3.1% in the private sector. This is one of very few periods over a number of years that saw public sector pay growing faster than private sector pay.

In 2010, pay for public sector employees was frozen, and between 2013 and 2017 most public sector pay rises were restricted to an average 1%. Between 2010 and November 2019 the difference in average weekly pay between the two sectors fell from an average 6.9% (in favour of the public sector during the 12 months to December 2010) to 1.1%. The latter is similar to the difference that existed pre-2009.

There are differences in the employment and employee profiles between the two sectors, and these change over time, for example the number of jobs in the public sector fell by over one million between September 2009 and September 2019. Understanding the underlying difference in pay and broader remuneration between the two sectors is a complex topic that has been explored by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in Public and private sector earnings in the UK: 2017, based on Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) 2017 data.

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4. Average weekly earnings data

Average weekly earnings
Dataset EARN01 | Released 21 January 2020
Headline estimates of earnings growth in Great Britain (seasonally adjusted).

Average weekly earnings by sector
Dataset EARN02 | Released 21 January 2020
Estimates of earnings in Great Britain broken down to show the effects of both changes in wages, and changes in the composition of employment (not seasonally adjusted)

Average weekly earnings by industry
Dataset EARN03 | Released 21 January 2020
Estimates of earnings in Great Britain broken down by detailed industrial sector (not seasonally adjusted).

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5. Glossary

Average weekly earnings

Average weekly earnings (AWE) is the lead monthly measure of average weekly earnings per employee. It is calculated using information based on the Monthly Wages and Salaries Survey (MWSS), which samples around 9,000 employers in Great Britain.

The estimates are not just a measure of pay rises as they do not, for example, adjust for changes in the proportion of the workforce who work full-time or part-time, or other compositional changes within the workforce. The estimates do not include earnings of self-employed people.

Estimates are available for both total pay (which includes bonus payments) and for regular pay (which excludes bonuses). Estimates are available in both nominal terms (not adjusted for inflation) and real terms (adjusted for inflation).

Bonus

A bonus is a form of reward or recognition granted by an employer. When an employee receives a bonus payment, there is no expectation or assumption that the bonus will be used to cover any specific expense. The value and timing of a bonus payment can be at the discretion of the employer or stipulated in workplace agreements.

Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH)

As of 21 March 2017, the Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH) became our lead measure of inflation. It is our most comprehensive measure of UK consumer price inflation.

Monthly Wages and Salaries Survey (MWSS)

A survey through which we collect information on wages and salaries. It is distributed monthly to around 9,000 employers covering around 12.8 million employees.

A more detailed Glossary is available.

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6. Measuring the data

This bulletin relies on data collected from the Monthly Wages and Salaries Survey, a survey of employers in Great Britain excluding small businesses employing fewer than 20 people.

More quality and methodology information on strengths, limitations, appropriate uses, and how the data were created is available in the Average weekly earnings QMI.

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7. Strengths and limitations

The figures in this bulletin come from a survey of businesses, which gathers information from a sample rather than from the whole population. The sample is designed to be as accurate as possible given practical limitations such as time and cost constraints. Results from sample surveys are always estimates, not precise figures. This can have an impact on how changes in the estimates should be interpreted, especially for short-term comparisons.

As the number of people available in the sample gets smaller, the variability of the estimates that we can make from that sample size gets larger. Estimates for small groups (for example, earnings for the construction sector), which are based on quite small subsets of the Monthly Wages and Salaries Survey sample, are less reliable and tend to be more volatile than for larger aggregated groups (for example, earnings for the private sector).

In general, short-term changes in the growth rates reported in this bulletin are not usually greater than the level that can be explained by sampling variability. Short-term movements in reported rates should be considered alongside longer-term patterns in the series and corresponding movements in other sources to give a fuller picture.

Further information is available in A guide to labour market statistics and A guide to sources of data on earnings and income.

Upcoming changes

The seasonal adjustment parameters used to calculate average weekly earnings (AWE) estimates will be reviewed prior to the next UK labour market release (18 February 2020). This is an annual process, as outlined in the Average weekly earnings QMI. The review may lead to revisions to the historical AWE time series extending back throughout the entire time series.

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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Roger Smith
labour.market@ons.gov.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)1633 456120