Danny Alexander is in a cheerful mood this morning, hailing a “jobs-rich recovery” on the back of fresh employment data. The figures “leave Labour’s economic narrative in tatters”, says the Lib Dem chief secretary to the Treasury.
Certainly, earnings are nudging ahead of inflation for the first time in six years – if you ignore a bonus-related blip in 2010.
(Average earnings rose 1.7 per cent in the three months to March on a year earlier, nudging ahead of March’s 1.6 per cent consumer price inflation rate.)
If that trend continues it could seriously wound Labour’s “Cost of Living” narrative.
Although – and this is a major caveat – the Office for Budget Responsibility has estimated that real incomes will not return to their 2009-10 levels until 2018 at the earliest.
Employment soared by nearly a third of a million in only a quarter, the biggest three-month jump in over 40 years.
(Employment continued to rise rapidly, up by 283,000 to a record 30.43m in the three months to March compared with the previous quarter, the biggest quarterly increase since records began in 1971.)
Expect to hear lots of noise about this from David Cameron at PMQs later today.
And yet, the labour market is still not quite as wholesome as coalition ministers would like to suggest.