Britain's trade in goods deficit widened sharply in December on a surge in oil imports, making the trade gap for last year as a whole the biggest since 2010. There were signs of a shift in the trade balance in the final quarter, when the goods deficit narrowed by the largest amount in three years as export volumes rose at their fastest since the second quarter of 2013, but the overall picture remains one of an economy heavily reliant on domestic demand.
The Conservative-led government's hopes of exports playing a greater role in the economy have been frustrated by persistent weakness in the euro zone, Britain's largest export market. That seems unlikely to change before a national election on May 7.
But there are signs that exporters are being helped by the fall in the value of the pound in the second half of last year. Export volumes jumped 2.4 percent in December. A survey last week showed British manufacturing export order growth hit a five-month high in January. December's deficit was pushed up by a nearly 40 percent leap in oil import volumes, reversing a trend of falling imports.
Employers in the U.S. added more jobs than forecast in January, capping the biggest three-month gain in 17 years, and workers’ earnings jumped. The 257,000 advance in payrolls last month followed a 329,000 gain in December that was bigger than previously reported, figures from the Labour Department showed Friday in Washington. The median forecast called for a 228,000 increase. The unemployment rate climbed to 5.7 percent as the improving job market lured more Americans into the labour force.
A stronger economy has encouraged companies to boost hiring, creating a virtuous cycle of growth as Americans spend newfound incomes on goods and services. Sustained job growth will probably help assure Federal Reserve policy makers that the expansion is well-rooted and can withstand an increase in interest rates later this year. Average hourly earnings jumped 0.5 percent, the most since November 2008, from the prior month. They were up 2.2 percent over the past year, the biggest advance since August.
Job gains in January were led by retailers, construction firms and health-care companies. Estimates for payrolls last month ranged from increases of 180,000 to 286,000. The agency’s survey of households, used to derive the unemployment rate, showed about 1.05 million people entered the labour force and 759,000 found work. These numbers also reflect new estimates on the size of the population. The participation rate, which indicates the share of working-age people in the labour force, increased to 62.9 percent from 62.7 percent in December.
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