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LONDON: British employers added 257,000 staff to their payrolls in November, adding to signs that the labour market withstood the end of the government's furlough scheme, according to data published on Tuesday.

The Bank of England has said it needs to be sure that the expiry of the scheme at the end of September has not caused a jump in unemployment, before taking any decision to raise interest rates for the first time since the pandemic.

But the emergence of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus at the end of November has prompted investors to scale back their bets on a rate hike by the BoE as soon as Thursday, after its December policy meetings.

The payrolls data, provided by Britain's tax office, showed November's increase was the biggest since records began in 2014. But October's increase was slashed to 74,000 from an originally reported 160,000.

Separate official data showed the unemployment rate fell to 4.2% in the three months to October, as expected by economists polled by Reuters and down from 4.3% in the three months to September.

Employment rose by 149,000 in the August-October period, less than a predicted increase of 228,000 in the Reuters poll, while the number of unemployed fell by 127,000.

The ONS said average weekly earnings were 4.9% higher than in the same three months of 2020, the smallest annual increase since March.

Excluding bonuses, earnings were 4.3% higher than a year earlier, the smallest rise since the three months to February.

The ONS said it was no longer estimating underlying pay growth excluding the impact of the furlough scheme and other pandemic-related factors which have distorted the data.

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