Living standards show 'solid recovery' as household incomes grow, says report


Household incomes grew at the strongest level for 15 years in 2015/16, leading to a "solid recovery" in living standards, according to research.

The Resolution Foundation said the recovery was built on rapid employment growth and historically low inflation.

Growth rates were evenly shared, benefiting low and middle-income households as well as the better off, said the think tank.

In the past year, average household income grew at the fastest rate since 2001, said the foundation's director Torsten Bell.

But he said there was "anxiety" about prospects for 2017, adding: "These are good results, but obviously no one expects dancing in the streets as this income recovery has come off the back of an unprecedented income squeeze in the crisis years.

"Indeed non-retired incomes have only just returned to pre-crisis levels. But in some ways more concerning than the past, which we can do very little about, is the future.

"People may not have loved 2016 but we may come to miss the income rises it saw."

Mr Bell said recent employment growth cannot be sustained indefinitely, and has already slowed to a "trickle" as the labour market has been in a "holding pattern" since May.

"Ultra low inflation in recent years has boosted real pay rises, with real pay growth nearing 3% in late 2015, hovering around 2% for much of 2016 and now standing at 1.7% annual growth over the three months to October.

"But new Resolution Foundation analysis of official forecasts for pay and inflation shows that we are on course for fast, significant and repeated falls in real earnings growth early in the new year.

"This earnings freefall means we expect wage growth to fall to around 1% in the three months to January, the slowest real wage rises in over two years."

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Working people in the UK faced the largest fall in real wages after the financial crisis of any developed country except Greece.

"They can't afford another 'earnings freefall' and will expect the Government to take action in 2017 to boost wages.

"We need fair pay settlements in the public sector, a higher minimum wage, and a Brexit strategy that prioritises jobs and pay."