Unemployment goes from bad to worse

Unemployment in Britain is now at its worst for 17 years, youth unemployment is at its highest since records began and 10% of Londoners are out of work. These are just some of the unacceptable features of the October Labour Market Statistics and all the indications are that things are going to get worse rather than better over the coming period.

The statistics show that:

  • Overall unemployment increased by 114,000 to 2.57 million (8.1% of the economically active population) in the three months to end August. This is the highest unemployment Britain has seen since October 1994, when the last Tory government was in power.
  • Unemployment amongst Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants increased (for the seventh month in a row) by 17,500 to 1.6 million, giving a claimant count of 5%.
  • Unemployment amongst 16-24 year olds increased by 74,000 to 991,000, giving a youth unemployment rate of 21.3% – the highest figures since comparable records began in 1992.

Other groups who were also badly hit included workers aged 65 and over whose numbers fell by 74,000, the biggest fall in workers of that age group since records began in 1992. (This was largely due to employers pushing out older workers before the October abolition of the 65 default retirement age.) Public sector workers were also hard hit, with employment in that sector falling by 111,000 to 6.04 million. Part-time workers were hard hit as well, with the number of such workers falling by 175,000 to 7.7million.

In addition to this, the number of economically inactive people (not included in the unemployment figures) increased by 26,000 to 9.35 million, giving an inactivity rate of 23.3%. These figures, which this newsletter has not highlighted before, include 2.32 million looking after homes and families, 2.28 million students, 2.16 million long-term sick, 1.57 million retired people below the age of 65 and others who are temporarily sick or who have simply given up trying to find work.

The number of job vacancies in the economy increased by 1,000 to 462,000 but this still leaves an average of 5.56 unemployed people chasing every job.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, by no means a left-wing or anti-business organisation, described the latest figures as ‘truly horrific’ and pointed out that one in three unemployed people have now been out of work for over a year. It also pointed out the damage being done to the economy by the destruction of almost a quarter of a million public sector jobs in the coalition’s first year in office. The Institute made what was for them a remarkably radical (and sensible) call for the coalition to temporarily halt further public sector job cuts, which they described as an ‘own goal’ at a time of high and rising unemployment and economic stagnation.

Richard Lynch is a Dudden Hill resident. He is a retired Unite the Union official and currently conducts voluntary work on employment rights for the Brent Community Law Centre. He also acts as an accompanying representative for the GMB union.


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