The latest ONS figures show that the total unemployment rose by 43,000 to 2.5m in the three months to February, taking the unemployment rate to 8%, and that a whopping 929,000 of that total are young people aged 16-24.
And signing on is not a great way to start your ‘working’ life, as anyone who has had to do it will attest.
Unemployment was also up for the over 50s, rising 7,000 to 396,000. Perhaps most worryingly of all, the number of people classed as ‘economically inactive’ –out of work and not seeking any – hit a record 8.16m, that’s a scarily-high 21.5% of the total UK population.
Even though some of this is apparently due to the number of people choosing to ride out the recession as a student, that sounds like an insupportably-high proportion to us.
On the bright side, the number claiming jobseekers allowance actually fell 32,900 to 1.54m, rather more than expected.
Of course, unemployment is a lagging indicator, which classically goes on rising well after the ‘official’ end of a recession. And some of the more dire forecasts regarding unemployment that were bandied about in the dark days of last year have not come to pass – 2.5m is bad enough, but some were predicting 3m by now. Let’s hope we never get that far.
Regionally it’s a pretty mixed picture, with unemployment in London, the North East, the W Midlands and N Ireland down, but rising more or less everywhere else.
And conversely, the number of jobs in the public sector is still rising, up 7,000 over the period. Given that tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs are likely to be lost over the next few years as we struggle to reduce our national debts, this is not good. That means there’s a fair chance that we are going to have to live with a structurally high rate of unemployment for a good while yet…
In today's bulletin: