The British pound continues to rally on Tuesday. GBP/USD is trading at 1.2463 in the European session, up 1.15% on the day.
UK employment numbers sparkle
The tight UK labor market is getting even tighter, as reflected in the March employment report. The unemployment rate fell to 3.7% (3.8% prior), below the 3.8% forecast and its lowest level since 1974. Employment change jumped by 83 thousand, smashing the estimate of 5 thousand. Wage growth in Q1 was up 7%, but without bonuses, the gain was only 4.2%. This means that inflation is far outstripping wage growth and exacerbating the cost of living crisis for UK households.
The UK continues to grapple with a severe shortage of workers, as Covid resulted in some 500 thousand workers leaving their jobs, and many continental European workers left the UK after Brexit. For the first time on record, there are more job vacancies than unemployed persons in the UK.
This economic landscape leaves the Bank of England stuck between a rock and a hard place. The central bank must raise rates to contain soaring inflation, but this could tip the economy into a recession if the BoE is unable to guide it to a ‘soft landing’. Governor Bailey didn’t pull any punches on Monday in his testimony before lawmakers, saying that he was extremely concerned about inflation. We’ll get a look at UK inflation on Wednesday, with the markets bracing for a reading of 9.1% in April. I expect the inflation report to be a market-mover for the pound – a stronger than expected release will likely send the pound higher, while a weak release would put strong pressure on the currency.
Today’s employment report has raised expectations that the BoE will have to remain aggressive with its rate cycle, which has pushed UK yields and the British pound sharply higher. If the US/UK rate differential continues to narrow, the pound should be able to make up ground against the dollar.
- 1.2275 is providing support. Below, there is support at 1.2143
- GBP/USD has broken above resistance at 1.2393. Above, there is resistance at 1.2525