Market report

Jobless up, vacancies fall | EasyJet | Entain | Mitie


Jeremy Hunt

The unemployment rate for December to February ticked up slightly, by 0.1 percentage points to 3.8%. The rate had held steady at 3.7% in each of the previous four months at 3.7%, and was expected to remain at that level.

In Scotland it stood at 3%, the lowest Scottish unemployment rate since the series began in 1992.

The number of job vacancies across the UK fell  for the ninth time in a row as companies blamed economic pressures for holding back on hiring new staff. The ONS said it “reflects uncertainty across industries”.

In the three months to February, annual growth in average total pay, including bonuses, was 5.9%, unchanged from the upwardly revised figure in the three months to January. However, it was higher than the market consensus of 5.1%.

Excluding bonuses, average earnings rose 6.6%, also unchanged from the upwardly revised figure last month, and higher than the consensus of 6.2%.

ONS director of economic statistics Darren Morgan said: “With the number of people neither working nor looking for a job down again, there were rises in both those in work and those actively looking for a job.

“However, while the group outside the labour market – termed ‘economically inactive’ – fell, the number among them who were long-term sick rose to a new record high.”

Ben Harrison, director of the Work Foundation, said: “This is another challenging set of figures for workers who are seeing their wages fall in real terms for the 15th consecutive month.

The Treasury pointed out that unemployment is higher in Canada, France, Italy, Spain, and the Euro area. Employment is lower in the US, France, Italy, Spain and the Euro area.

Chancellor the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt said: “While unemployment remains close to historic lows, rising prices continue to eat into pay cheques which is why halving inflation this year is one of our top economic priorities.

“To help families in the meantime, we are making work pay with a record increase in the National Living Wage, while providing cost of living support worth an average of £3,300 per household this year and last, funded through windfall taxes on energy profits.”

4.30pm: Index higher on bank boost

The blue chip FTSE 100 index finished the session back above the 7,900 threshold, as it continued its upward trajectory on the back of good earnings reports from the US banks. The index closed 29.93 points higher at 7,909.44.

There were big gains for miners Fresnillo, Anglo American, Endeavour and Glencore which benefited from strong growth from China in the first three months of the year as Covid restrictions were lifted and the country splashed out with a fresh bout of revenge shopping.

China’s post-Covid recovery is firmly on track, according to data showing the economy expanded 4.5% in the first quarter year-on-year, accelerating from the previous 2.9% reading and outstripping forecasts for 4% growth.

Economic activity was driven up by a boost in household spending and rising factory activity. Retail sales surged by 10.6%, giving hope that subdued domestic demand could also turn around.

9.20am: Beattie arrested

SNP treasurer Colin Beattie has been arrested in connection with the ongoing investigation into the funding and finances of the Scottish National Party.

Full story here

9am: Abrdn cuts

Abrdn, the Edinburgh-based asset and wealth manager, is cutting about a fifth of the staff in one of its divisions as chief executive Stephen Bird continues to reshape the company.

Full story here

8.30am: London opens higher

The FTSE 100 was trading 22 points higher at 7,901.28.


EasyJet expects full-year profit to beat market forecasts as it sees a rise in summer bookings following strong demand over Easter.

Market expectations for EasyJet’s full-year profit stand at about £260m, the company said.

The airline’s passenger capacity grew 40% in the first three months of 2023, it said, with 99.8% of Easter flights operating despite strikes among French air traffic controllers.

EasyJet shares were up 3.8%.


Outsourcing specialist Mitie said it expected operating profit to beat guidance after replacing all its Covid-related contract revenue, and announced a £50m share buyback.

The company, which provides services from cleaning to building security, said it expected operating profit before other items to be at least £155m against current guidance of £145m and the actual £167m made in 2022.


Ladbrokes and Coral owner Entain posted higher quarterly net gaming revenues, helped by acquisitions and a rise in the number of the gambling firm’s active customers.

Online net gaming revenue rose 11% on constant currency for the three months ended 31 March as punters bet heavily during the US basketball tournament ‘March Madness’ and the Super Bowl.

Active customers rose 19% from a year earlier, and reported robust demand in its retail units, with net retail gaming revenue up 13% in the quarter.

Global markets

Asia stocks were mostly weaker, with investors possibly fretting about the implications of further Fed tightening after strong manufacturing data boosted bets for a hike in May.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index was up 0.4%. In China, the Shanghai Composite was up 0.1%, but the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong fell around 0.7%.

In New York stocks closed higher on Monday as investors look ahead to a hefty week of corporate news.

US banks are in the midst of earnings statements. Goldman Sachs and Bank of America report later in the day while Morgan Stanley is on Wednesday.

JPMorgan, Citigroup and Wells Fargo have all beaten Wall Street forecasts but State Street tumbled more than 9% overnight after fee income fell.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 0.3%. The S&P 500 gained 0.3%, while the Nasdaq Composite advanced 0.3%.

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