The number of people in work has fallen at its sharpest for more than two years, while pay continues to lag behind inflation, official figures show.
There are just over 32 million people in employment, but the 56,000 drop between August and October is the largest since the three months to May 2015, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
That was despite a continued fall in joblessness, explained by the number of people classed as economically inactive – meaning they are not seeking or available to work – rising by 115,000 to 8.8 million.
Average earnings, excluding bonuses, rose by 2.3% in the year to October.
This means pay in real terms – when taking into account inflation – dropped by 0.4%, the eighth month in a row of decline.
Image: Pay growth has been lower than the rise in the cost of living for several months
The figures come a day after official data showed inflation had risen to a near six-year high of 3.1% in November – forcing the Bank of England to explain the unexpected rise to Chancellor Philip Hammond.
The unemployment rate remained static at 4.3%, its lowest level since 1975.
The jobless total fell by 26,000 to 1.4 million, which is 182,000 lower than a year ago.
Trades Union Congress general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “2017 has been a bleak year for living standards.
“Real wages have now fallen for the last eight months in a row and working people will be worse off this Christmas than they were a decade ago.
“Boosting pay packets should be a priority for the Government – not a side issue.”
Matthew Percival, from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said: “Pay growth is picking up a little, but rising inflation means that many people won’t feel the benefit yet.
“Raising productivity is key to turning this around. Progress from business and government on the Industrial Strategy must help to raise living standards across all parts of the UK.”
Video: On The Road – Paterson looks at UK productivity struggles
Improvements in productivity would mean faster wage growth, a wider economic boost, and a healthier tax intake for the Treasury.
But these have failed to materialise as expected since the financial crisis.
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Other figures showed the number of people in work in the public sector rose by 19,000 in September to 5.4 million, mainly due to an increase in the NHS workforce, while the job count in the private sector fell by 75,000 to 26.5 million.
Employment minister Damian Hinds said: “We’re ending the year on a strong note, with figures showing the unemployment rate has fallen every month in 2017, and is now at the lowest it’s been in over 40 years.”