Guns before butter

There are worries about the labour market

The UK’s employment outlook is the weakest for 15 years, as companies continue to cut back on their recruitment plans, a report claims.

Blaming concerns over the state of the economy, recruitment group Manpower said confidence had fallen across most regions and economic sectors.

Its survey of 2,200 employers found that almost nine out of 10 had no current plans to take on new staff.

Manpower said the situation was worst in finance and business services firms.

As for costs, producers are playing pass the parcel

Price inflation of goods leaving UK factories held at its highest rate in 16 years in February, as producers passed on rising raw material costs.

The Office for National Statistics said that producer prices rose at an annual rate of 5.7% in February, driven by the rising price of crude oil.

Prices paid by factories for raw materials rose 19.3% on the year – the fastest since records began in 1986.

The price of factory-made food products increased by 8.4%.

The main drivers were the meat, bread and dairy sectors.

Dairy products were up 19.8%, bread products 12.5% and meat products 11.3%.

And as for paying the bills, well…

A new report by uSwitch has revealed the average pay rise in the UK this year is only 3.4% against a 9% rise in bills.

The average net monthly increase to UK salaries from 2007 to 2008 is £61 for the private sector, £31 for the public sector and £44 overall – against a £148 a month increase in essential living costs.

Nine million of us are not getting a pay rise this year, a further 13 million will receive a pay rise below the retail prices index and over five million people will get a pay rise falling short of the consumer prices index.

But one thing is certain: there’s always enough money for war

The costs of military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq this year are likely to almost double to £3.297bn, a committee of MPs has warned.

The Commons defence committee said operational costs for this financial year were now forecast to reach £3.297bn – a 94% increase on last year.

This included a 72% rise in spending on Iraq to £1.648bn, despite ongoing falls in troop numbers. […]

Last year’s total spending on the two conflicts was £1.698bn.

The cost of the Afghan conflict would rise 122% to £1.649bn this year, the MPs said.

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