Matt Whittaker, CEO of Pro Bono Economics, said:

“The national pay squeeze has entered its 15th consecutive month, with average earnings now sitting some 2.9% below their 2021 peak. A further drop in the number of vacancies and a modest increase in unemployment suggests the labour market is continuing to weaken. This is reflected in further growth in demand for charity support. The number of people referred by Citizens Advice to charitable support and foodbanks rose again in February, meaning the monthly figure is three times as high as it was at the start of the pandemic.

“Economic inactivity fell once again, providing some apparently better news. However, the drop was accounted for entirely by falling student and retiree numbers. By concerning contrast, the number of people reporting inactivity as a result of long-term sickness climbed once again, surpassing its peak from last autumn. As of January, over 2.5 million people were out of the workforce due to long term sickness, a rise of 19% on the pre-pandemic level. This group now accounts for 83% of the total rise in economic inactivity since the start of the pandemic.

Given these latest figures, it is welcome to hear that the Chancellor intends to focus on tackling inactivity in tomorrow's Budget. It should be clear, however, that his emphasis needs to be on supporting health and wellbeing in Britain's potential workforce. In doing that, it is vital that he engages with the thousands of charities across the UK for whom that is the day job.”