Earnings including bonuses rose by an annual 2.3 percent in the three months to February, unchanged from the previous period, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said on Wednesday.
Consumer price inflation has remained at 2.3 per cent in March, remaining at its highest year-on-year level since October 2013. Year-over-year growth in wages excluding bonuses fell to 1.9 per cent, from 2.2 per cent, dragging down the ex-bonus headline rate to 2.2 per cent, from 2.4 per cent.
Economists expect inflation to rise again next month as Easter-related price rises kick-in, while rising energy bills are also expected to push up inflation in the coming months.
Liu Xuezhi, a senior researcher at the Bank of Communications' Financial Research Center, told the China Securities Journal prior to the official report: "Declining food prices and smaller gains for travel and clothing-related items are believed to be the key reasons for the low CPI reading in March".
Food prices, the biggest component of the consumer price index (CPI), fell by 4.4 percent. Prices for local goods went up by 7.3 per cent, while imported commodities rose 9.1 per cent and those of fresh products increased by 17.3 percent during the period under review. Consumer price inflation may regain some ground but should remain below 2.0%.
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Also in April, increases in taxes on air passengers and auto owners are kicking in and many utility companies are raising their prices too.
Overall output prices rose by 3.6 per cent, also a touch weaker than in February but above a forecast of 3.3 per cent in the Reuters poll.
Sheng Guoqing, a bureau analyst, said price increases in non-food sectors were overshadowed by price drops in food, resulting in the mild inflation in March.
Experts, including the Bank of England, reckon inflation could hit three per cent this year.
Centre for Economics and Business Research managing economist Nina Skero said households would increasingly feel the pinch as inflation outpaces wage growth.
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Economists noted the tempered increase in transport costss was merely due to the timing of Easter, rather than an actual slowing down of price rises.
However, she said: "But we don't think that that will panic the MPC [Monetary Policy Committee] into raising rates imminently".
"This is especially true given that wage growth is unlikely to keep up with the elevated inflation levels".
Viktor Nossek, director of research at WisdomTree, said: "It is worth remembering that CPI in the U.S. is only just creeping up despite wages increasing in response to a stronger labour market".
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