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Median weekly pay increases by £1

Median weekly pay for full-time workers went up by just £1 in the year to April to £518, the smallest growth since 1997, new figures have shown, leading to accusations that workers are being "shut out" of the economic recovery.

Annual increases averaged about 1.4% a year between 2009 and 2014 but the latest figure represents a rise of 0.1%, said the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Adjusted for inflation, weekly earnings fell by 1.6%, continuing a trend since the recession, to levels last seen in the early 2000s.

The gender pay gap has narrowed by 0.6% to 9.4%, the lowest since records began in 1997, said the ONS.

The Government welcomed the reduction but conceded there was more to be done.

The data also showed there were 236,000 jobs with pay less than the national minimum wage in April, representing 0.9% of all jobs.

About 9,000 of those were held by 16-to-17-year-olds, and 31,000 by 18-to-20-year-olds.

The ONS said 196,000 jobs paying less than the statutory minimum were held by employees aged 21 or over.

The bottom tenth of full-time employees earned less than £288 a week, compared with £1,240 for the top 10%, the new figures revealed.

The gap between men's and women's earnings from 1997 to 2014 has remained "relatively consistent" at around £100, although it has been closing in percentage terms.

The gap for both full and part-time employees was also a record low of 19.1%, down by 0.7% from 2013.

The biggest differences are in skilled trades occupations, managers, directors and senior officials while the lowest are in sales, customer service and leisure.

London topped the regional table for full-time median earnings at £660 a week, £143 more than the figure for the whole of the UK and about £200 more than in Northern Ireland.

Matthew Whittaker, chief economist at the Resolution Foundation, said: "Today's bleak figures contrast with signs last week that the UK's six-year pay squeeze was coming to an end.

"While today's data relates to April - a period in which we already knew pay was falling - the depth of decline highlights just how tentative any recent recovery remains.

"Of particular note in the latest figures is the fact that full-time hourly earnings among men fell in cash terms in the year to April 2014.

"While the still large gender pay gap has thus narrowed again, this is not way to erode the earnings penalty facing women and shows that the often neglected issue of male employment needs closer attention."

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Ordinary households are not sharing in the recovery and the recession in their wages continues despite the economy's return to growth.

"The gains of growth are going to a few people at the top, with ordinary workers being shut out of the recovery.

"The Government is making history for the longest fall in real earnings since records began - a time when Queen Victoria was on the throne.

"Britain needs a pay rise to end the decline in living standards and to put the spending money in people's pockets that will keep businesses growing."

Minister for Women and Equalities Nicky Morgan said: "I am delighted that the gender pay gap has reduced to its lowest point in history.

"However, there is more to be done and the Government will continue to work with industry to make sure it reduces even further.

"Women are vital to the success of our long-term economic plan and we need to make the most of their skills at every age.

"We have more women in work than ever before but businesses need to value diversity in their workforce and pay attention to the role of women in their organisations."

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls said: "Out-of-touch ministers claim the economy is fixed but these figures show wages continuing to fall.

"Average earnings fell by 1.6% in real terms last year - a bigger fall than in the previous two years.

"Working people are worse off under David Cameron's Government and millions face a further hit if the Tories win the election.

"David Cameron and George Osborne have promised to cut tax credits again while keeping a £3 billion a year tax cut for the top 1% of earners."

Dr Eva Neitzert, deputy chief executive of the Fawcett Society, welcomed the narrowing of the gender pay gap, adding: "This marks an important step in the right direction for women at a time where many continue to face serious financial pressures.

"As today's figures also reveal, weekly earnings for full-time employees increased by only 0.1% on last year - the smallest annual growth since records began.

"The implications of this stagnant growth are particularly worrying for the lowest paid - two-thirds of whom are women.

"Recent research from the Fawcett Society reveals that low-paid women are being firmly shut out of the recovery.

"Rather than feeling the gains of growth, life for the UK's three million low-paid women is becoming increasingly tough."

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