Colin Brinsden, AAP Economics and Business Correspondent
(Australian Associated Press)

Wages grew at a fractionally faster pace than expected in the final three months of 2020, but failed to lift the annual rate from a record low.

Wages increased by a slim 0.6 per cent in the December quarter, double what economists were expecting, and improving on the 0.1 per cent rise in the previous three months.

The annual rate of the wage cost index – used by the Reserve Bank and Treasury in gauging wage growth – remained at a record low 1.4 per cent.

Australian Bureau of Statistics head of prices statistics Michelle Marquardt said the quarterly result was influenced by businesses rolling back short-term wage reductions put in place during the pandemic, returning pay to pre-COVID-19 levels.

“The phased implementation of the Fair Work Commission annual wage review also had a small positive impact on wages,” she said.

Private sector wages grew 0.7 per cent in the quarter, while those in the public sector rose by 0.3 per cent.

Meanwhile, other ABS figures showed construction work completed in the December quarter declined 0.9 per cent to $51.2 billion, dragged down by declines in engineering and non-residential building.

However, residential building rose 2.7 per cent to $17.9 billion in the quarter.

The rise coincides with strong new homes sales and building approvals as Australians take advantage of low interest rates and government incentives, like HomeBuilder.

Overall, building rose by 0.6 per cent in the quarter to $29.4 billion, with non-residential building dropping by 2.4 per cent to $11.5 billion.

Engineering work also fell by 2.8 per cent to $21.8 billion.

The data feeds into the economic growth figures of the December quarter national accounts that will be issued on March 3.

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