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Tories raise fears about economic outlook

Senior Conservative Party ministers have expressed concern about Britain’s economic outlook following publication of new statistics showing that prices are outstripping earnings while the jobs market is stagnating.

Shadow chancellor George Osborne says: “This is yet more evidence that people’s earnings are failing to keep up with the rising cost of living.

“Gordon Brown tries to pretend that everything is rosy in the economy, but rising prices mean that families’ real living standards are falling.”

Shadow work and pensions secretary, Philip Hammond, adds: “The general outlook for the economy is concerning, with inflation rising and employment stagnating.”

The shadow ministers were commenting after the Office for National Statistics revealed that in the three months to November 2006, average earnings, excluding bonuses, increased by 3.7%, unchanged from the previous month.

Including bonuses, the increase was 4.1%, unchanged from the previous month. Compared to a year earlier, average earnings excluding bonuses were up by only 3.6%, while including bonuses the figure was only 3.9%.

With the cost of living, growing by 4.4% in the year to December 2006,
average families with a single earner on an income of 20,000 will be worse
off in real terms by 153.

Meanwhile, the latest job figures show that the number of people unemployed for over 12 months is up 17,000 on the last quarter, and now stands at 385,000.

The number of 25 – 49 year olds unemployed for over 12 months has increased by 11% to 206,000 over the quarter, while the number of over 50s
unemployed for over 12 months has increased by 10% to 92,000.

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