Given the cuts to public sector budgets, the government must be thanking its lucky stars that unemployment hasn’t gone through the roof. But today’s figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the jobless total fell by 37,000 people from between September and November last year, to 2.49 million.
The ONS also said that the number of people in work had risen to 29.7 million people over the period. Drill down into the specific metrics a little, and the picture is at least positive: the number claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance fell 12,100 to 1.56 million (that’s the lowest since June 2011), and the actual unemployment rate fell one basis point to 7.7%.
Figures also show that the number of long-term unemployed people (more than two years out of a job) fell by 10,000 to 434,000; but the number of 16-24-year-olds out of work rose by 1,000 to 957,000.
But is that as good as it sounds? What about the issue of the ‘underemployed’ – where people want to work more than the part time hours that they can get their hands on – and the figures seem less encouraging. It’s also the case that, because wages have not kept up at all with inflation over the last five years, those who are in work are worse off than they were. Or cheaper to employ, depending on how you look at it.
It’s worth noting that the UK’s predicament is nowhere near as bad as in Greece and Spain which have half of their youth populations out of work and a quarter of their total working-age populations.
Still, UK plc trudges on. More people, on aggregate, in work, but earning less – it has to be the least worst option…
Check out MT's recent coverage of a study on the issue of 'underemployment' in the UK...