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Working, working less and worklessness

Lurking beneath today’s headline rise in unemployment – with ILO unemployment topping 2.5 million – are some worrying figures:

  1. The increase in unemployment this quarter is totally accounted for by a fall in public sector employment accompanied by no corresponding rise in private sector employment. The number of people employed in the public sector fell by 33,000 on the quarter to reach 6.01 million while the number of people employed in the private sector was unchanged on the quarter at 23.11 million.
  2. There are still massive amounts of ‘underemployment’. The number of employees and self-employed people who were working part-time because they could not find a fulltime job increased by 46,000 on the quarter to reach 1.16 million, the highest figure since comparable records began in 1992.
  3. There are significant rises in long-term unemployment. There were 839,000 people unemployed for longer than 12 months, the highest figure since the three months to February 1997 and up 41,000 on the quarter. This figure is almost double what it was in October 2008, and a third of all unemployed people have been out of work for over a year.
  4. The number on Job Seekers’ Allowance has basically been flat now for five months: 1.465 million in June and 1.462 million in November.
  5. For the 18–24 age group, unemployment has risen by 9000 on the quarter, resulting in an unemployment rate of 17.6 per cent. In addition, some 198,000 18–24-year-olds have been out of work for over 12 months; double the number from two years ago.
  6. According to the Labour Force Survey for the quarter, young ethnic minorities are still the most vulnerable to unemployment. 16–24-year-old Pakistani young people maintain the highest unemployment rate at 42 per cent. Black-African (33.3 per cent), black-Caribbean (33.3 per cent), Indian (30 per cent) and Bangladeshi (27.9 per cent) youths also suffer from high unemployment rates, while white-British young people maintain a lower rate of 20.8 per cent.
  7. Significantly, given the protests over the loss of Education Maintenance Allowances, the number of 16–17-year-olds who are unemployed has risen to 206,000 (up 3500 on the quarter), meaning this age group now faces an unemployment rate of 35.7 per cent. No wonder that they are so angry about being denied £30 a week to stay on at school or college. No amount of officialese about ‘deadweight’ costs – which, as the IFS has pointed out, is entirely contestable – is going to assuage that anger.
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