Britain records less than expected economic growth

The unemployment rate in Northern Ireland has fallen to its lowest level in 10 years

"With real wages continuing to slide in the face of stubbornly high inflation, weak retail sales figures and stagnant levels of business investment, the Bank of England Governor's talk of two interest rate rises this year is rightly being called into question".

Statisticians said the reason why both employment and unemployment increased at the same time was that the number of people deemed to be inactive declined.

Consequently, unemployment rose by one percentage point from the previous quarter, although the rate of unemployment remains relatively low at 4.4%.

However, other analysts judged that the latest GDP figures would be unlikely to change policymakers' views. GDP rose 0.5% in the third quarter.

GDP did increase by 0.4% between quarter 3 and quarter 4 a year ago, the data showed, and 1.7% between 2016 and 2017.

The ONS said workers' total earnings, including bonuses, rose by an annual 2.5 percent in the three months to December, as expected and unchanged from the three months to November.

The UK's unemployment rate has unexpectedly risen by the biggest amount in nearly five years, official figures show.

Markets are predicting that the next rate rise beyond 0.5% could come as soon as May and are pencilling in at least three hikes within three years.

"However, these latest figures show 68,000 more people in employment compared to the pre-recession peak, with 17,000 more people in work over the year and it is encouraging we continue to outperform the United Kingdom on employment and unemployment rates for young people and women".

Thursday's downgradings were the result of recent revisions to industrial production figures and business investment having ground to a standstill.

Those improvements in productivity were for most of the last 200 years the motor of economic growth, so regular they could be taken for granted.

"Looking at the underlying numbers, we can see that European Union net migration has fallen, as fewer European Union citizens are arriving, especially those coming to look for work in the United Kingdom, and the number leaving has risen". Versus the euro, the pound was down 0.2% at 1.29.

While we had had economic growth, most of it wasn't growth in the amount each worker produced or earned, but simply growth in the number of people working.

So used to the "productivity puzzle" have economists become that when the ONS estimated productivity growth of 0.9% in the third quarter of a year ago, many dismissed it as a blip.

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