Are yesterday’s unemployment figures a one off or the start of a worrying trend? The truth is that George Osborne is sitting in the Treasury crossing his fingers that it’s the former but with no Plan B if it’s the latter.
The figures are not good: they show unemployment going up by 35,000, the number of unemployed women hitting a 22 year high and long term unemployment on the rise.
All of us hope this is a one off but my fear is that we are now beginning to see the real cost of George Osborne’s economic experiment.
Particularly worrying is that the private sector is not yet creating enough jobs to make up for the posts that are being cut in the public sector – something I spoke about in my recent Demos speech. Were this to continue it will undermine one of the key planks of the government’s Plan A.
The fall in employment is driven by a 33,000 fall in the number of jobs in the public sector and no net increase in private sector jobs.
As well as that, the number of people working part-time because they can’t find a full-time job increased by 46,000, the highest figures since records began in 1992.
The one bit of good news is that vacancies, which had been falling, have now risen back up to the level they were in August.
However, the number of unemployed people to each vacancy has risen – at the start of the year it was 5.1 unemployed people for each vacancy, now it is 5.5.
You can’t make snap judgements about the state of the economy based on one month’s figures but the government would be complacent to dismiss these concerning new figures.
We all know the long term price that’s paid if you abandon young people to the dole, so I hope the internal DWP estimates of very high levels of long term youth unemployment that were revealed in yesterday’s Guardian aren’t part of a wider trend.
But we should remember that each one of these statistics involves personal suffering for those families involved. And there are plenty of signs that suggest sadly as we end 2010 the British economy is not yet out of the woods.