Since the recession of 2008 and 2009, the standout features of the UK labour market have been robust employment and weak earnings. The employment rate of 16- to 64-year-olds is already back to its level as of 2008Q1 (73.0%), which is close to the highest rate recorded since consistent data began in 1971; but average earnings remain well below their pre-crisis level.
The aim of this analysis is to outline what we know about changes in earnings since the recession and to cast light on the current direction of travel. A number of facts can complicate matters. For example, the workforce changes in composition, there are many measures and data sources which tell us slightly different things, and the earnings of different people change differently. The public discourse, based on slightly different figures from one week to the next, can often seem a little bewildering. There is a need to set out systematically what we know.