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The UK’s annual inflation rate grew to 1.6% in December, up from 1.2% in November and reached the highest rate since July 2014. Higher food and air fares helped to increase December’s Consumer Prices Index (CPI), as the Office for National Statistics has revealed. The rise was bigger than expected, with economists predicting a rate of 1.4%.
The fall in sterling since the Brexit vote is starting to feed into the economy, said the BBC’s economics editor, Kamal Ahmed.
“This is the highest CPI has been for over two years, though the annual rate remains below the Bank of England’s target and low by historical standards,” said ONS head of inflation Mike Prestwood.
“Rising air fares and food prices, along with petrol prices falling less than last December, all helped to push up the rate of inflation.
“Rising raw material costs also continued to push up the prices of goods leaving factories.”
Separate figures for the Producer Price Index (PPI) showed that the price of goods bought from factories rose 2.7% in December compared with a year ago, as manufacturers started to pass through higher input costs following the fall in the pound.
Consumer inflation as measured by the Retail Prices Index (RPI) rose to 2.5% in December from 2.2% the previous month.
UK unemployment fell by 52,000 to 1.6 million in three months to November, official figures showed.
The jobless rate was steady at an 11-year low of 4.8%, in line with forecasts, the Office for National Statistics said. The employment rate was steady at a record 74.5%, while wage growth picked up pace. Average earnings increased by 2.8% in the year to November, 0.2% up on the previous month.
However, the number of people in work slipped by 9,000 to just over 31.8 million, the ONS said. It was the second consecutive report to show a decline in the number of people in work – the first back-to-back fall since mid-2015.
The number of full-time workers was 209,000 higher at 23.25 million people, while the total of part-time employees jumped 86,000 to 8.55 million.
Employment minister Damian Hinds described the figures as encouraging and highlighted the “strength and resilience” of the UK labour market.