United Kingdom unemployment increased unexpectedly at the end of past year but wage data was mixed, which may stoke some further speculation about the Bank of England's likely path for interest rate hikes.
British households have lost some of their spending power due to higher inflation, caused by the post-referendum fall in the pound.
The headline unemployment rate for the three months to December rose to 4.4% from 4.3% a month earlier, at which level it was expected to remain.
Unemployment has risen for the first time since 2016.
The number of unemployed rose by 46,000 from the September quarter to 1.47 million.
But the Bank of England expects pay to pick up soon, a big reason it says interest rates are likely to rise faster and to a greater extent than it thought until recently.
Nonetheless, the data painted a mostly robust picture of the labor market, with productivity - a major weakness of Britain's economy over the last decade - recording its best performance since the 2008-09 recession in the second half of 2017.
But Hughes pointed out: "Earnings continue to grow more slowly than prices". "These figures simply look at the number of people in work and aren't a measure of migration". And private sector pay growth accelerated to 2.6% from 2.3%.
The ONS said workers' total earnings, including bonuses, rose by an annual 2.5 percent in the three months to December, as expected and unchanged from the three months to November. Private- sector pay gains accelerated to 2.6 percent from 2.5 percent. That was the first rise since the three-month period to August 2016, which straddled the Brexit vote. In particular, fewer citizens of the eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004 and of non-EU countries were in work than in the year before. In midday trading, the pound was 0.5 percent lower at $1.3921.
The independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) said it meant borrowing for the fiscal year to the end of March would come in lower than it had previously forecast "by a significant margin".
The finance ministry said Wednesday's figures were considered strong.