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vital statistics

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The latest government figures show that increases in average earnings slowed last autumn.The figure dropped to 3.9 per cent from 4.4 per cent.Earlier in the year the increases had averaged 4.5 per cent - a 'comfort level', according to the Bank of England.

A survey by the Institute of Directors has revealed that business optimism has slumped to its lowest level in three years.The balance of companies more optimistic about prospects was just 10 per cent in December, compared with 28 per cent last summer.The poll of 500 company directors showed weak order books and slipping performance.

The number of people in work in the UK rose by 65,000 in the three months after 11 September, according to government figures.However, the number of manufacturing jobs crashed by 146,000 to 3.78 million.

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