This month’s employment statistics have drawn continued comment from the news media and observers about the supposed ‘oddity’ of increasing employment when the UK’s economic contraction continues.
But the story is nothing like as unalloyed as we might be led to believe. If you’re a woman, or young, then the news is anything but good. Economic inactivity is up and the news for Wales, Scotland and the long-term unemployed of either sex is not much less than awful.
Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman..
Much is being made by the Tories, in particular, of their ‘achievement’ in terms of jobs, with a fall of some 38,000 in the total unemployment number according to the statistically-adjusted figure.
However, the figure for women’s unemployment – according to the raw data which represents what’s really happening – is up by 10,000 (flat according to the adjusted figure). The figure is also higher than it was a year ago, and has increased by 66,000 since the middle of last year.
In spite of the increase in unemployment among women, the number of unemployment claimants fell by almost 15,000 – which means many women unable to find work also being denied unemployment benefits.
Just shuffling the deck
The number of people registered as unemployed may have fallen, but there’s a strong sense that much of this has been achieved by forcing people off benefits rather than by getting great numbers into work. 122,000 extra people became ‘economically inactive’, not making any contribution to the economy even by spending benefits – dwarfing the government’s headline drop in unemployment. This increase cannot be put down to increased population figures, as the number of ‘economically active’ people has fallen.
The young ones
The government has been widely and correctly criticised for the impact of its actions on young people – and for the insanity of its policy plans such as ending housing benefit for under-25s. In spite of this, it is continuing to punish young people for being young. Economic inactivity among 16-24s rose by 101,000, with the bulk of this impacting people in the 18-24 age group – out of work but not even being able to claim benefits, and so not being counted in the unemployment figures.
So, while hitting young people with massively increased university fees, spiralling rents and the near-impossibility of raising finance to buy a house, the government is not only forcing huge numbers of them to be out of work, but preventing them even being able to claim benefits and have some kind of participation in the economy.
This is bad for them, and bad for all of us as depressed demand contributes to the failure to recover economically.
Not much to sing about in the valleys
The fall in unemployment was almost entirely in England. Unemployment in Scotland rose by 24,000, and in Wales by 28,000, while economic activity in Scotland rose by another 38,000 and in Wales by 29,000.
The long-term unemployment pit – is HUGE
For all this government’s rhetoric about ‘welfare dependency’ and cutting benefits in order not to ‘trap’ people in unemployment, the reality is that its policies are condemning more and more people to long-term unemployment.
The number of people unemployed for over 2 years rose in every age group. Numbers unemployed for 12-24 months and over 24 months increased by an almost unbelievable 58% and 131% respectively over the past year.
But those barely-comprehensible figures pale into insignificance when you look at the change over the whole period of this risible government since it took office. Since May 2010, the 12-24 month figure has risen by 135% and the >24-month total by an astronomical 375%, as this graph shows:
2.5m into 400k won’t go
The ONS’ latest jobs vacancy figures indicate that there are still only 491,000 available jobs for a shade under 2.5 million unemployed people – 5.07 people for every available job. The government’s ‘scrounger’ rhetoric is as irrelevant as ever while there are more than 2 million people for whom no job exists.
And that’s only counting the officially unemployed, and not the substantial number of ‘hidden unemployed’ among the almost 18.4 million economically inactive people currently living in the UK.
New figures for disabled people won’t be available until next month, but it’s a safe bet that the news for them is not going to be good either and will add yet another hammer-blow to the many that they are suffering under the Tory-led coalition. While the number of people in employment has risen, the news for many parts of our population is consistently bad – and the impact of this government on the long-term prospects and dignity of millions people could justifiably be called criminal.
For those who are benefiting from it, the increase in employment is very good news – but as has been shown in earlier analyses, and commented on by the more astute and independent media, the employment mix in the UK is steadily worsening, with part-time and/or low-paid work by far the strongest growth-areas as the government’s ‘make work pay by making unemployment poverty‘ policies allow employers to pay wages that are below even a subsistence level, so even where unemployment is rising the news is unlikely to be as good as it appears at first glance.
As ever under this government, any kind of real scrutiny of the headlines and soundbites soon exposes a far more mottled and diseased-looking reality. Small wonder, since the ‘health’ of the wider economy and the wellbeing of ordinary people are very far from the priorities of the Tories and their corporate backers, while the LibDems have been weak, largely cowardly and generally ineffective in moderating the predatory instincts of their ‘partners’ in government.
The end of this government is, more than ever, a matter of urgent necessity for the vast majority of people in this country.