Government massages latest unemployment figures

The coalition government is desperate to prove it is making progress on reducing unemployment, but the recent figures hide the reality of working life in Britain today, writes Simon Hardy.

The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics indicate a 6.4% fall in the last three months (132,000 people), meaning that 2.08 million remain unemployed.

But there is concern that the figures are going down because a lot of people are being forced onto workfare (“mandatory work activity”) schemes, temporary self employment and zero-hours contract, part time work – which means they are off the books but still living in poverty with a very precarious income.

Another factor is that there has been a huge rise in the number of sanctions, with the Department for Work and Pensions current having around 170,000 people on benefit sanctions, meaning they are being penalised for contravening any number of the ridiculous hoops that they make the unemployed jump through.

People on sanctions are not counted as unemployed by the DWP – which would mean that the latest figures would not indicate a fall in the real number unemployed.

Lower wages

The ONS report also indicated that wage increases had dropped, down 0.2%  to only 0.6% (minus bonuses). This is the first time that the wage rate has gone down since 2009. With inflation at 1.9% and Retail Prices Index inflation at 2.6% – both increasing since May 2014 – we are faced with a serious decline in spending power.

The wages are an average indicator, so it means that a lot of people are becoming “employed” but on very low wages.

But wages for working people in the UK have declined in real terms for years now, in fact this is the longest phase of declining wages we have seen since the 1880s.

At the same time the number of billionaires in Britain has reached more than 100 for the first time.  They have a combined wealth of around £301 billion.


5 responses to “Government massages latest unemployment figures”

  1. An important factor which much be taken into consideration is that people are having to take on multiple jobs just to keep their heads afloat; 3 new jobs being ‘created’ does not necessarily mean 3 more people in employment.

    I’m a zero hours worker, but I’m extremely fortunate in the fact that I live at my family home. My colleagues are not so lucky; of the 9 non management staff in the kitchen where I work, 5 have a second job out of sheer necessity.

    This morally bankrupt Government can speak all they like about their much vaunted ‘#longtermeconomicplan’ but the simple fact is that they know they’re full of it – Ken Clarke admitted as much a few weeks ago.

  2. Larry Cohen says:

    There are those like myself, who are unemployed and forced to live without benefits, due to sanction risk. As I had to leave my last job due to health concerns, caused by an industrial accident which is going to court, until the case is settled, I left of my own accord, and so incur a 3 year sanction if I even attempt to claim JSA.

  3. Pieter Nicholsky says:

    “People on sanctions are not counted as unemployed by the DWP ”
    For the sake of accuracy the headline unemployment figures are based on a workforce survey, the number claiming JSA is a separate statistic.

  4. Jacob Richter says:

    Isn’t this old news, something routine in the UK long before Cameron and co. took power? There are different measures to unemployment, and the incumbent government and mainstream opposition go by the one that suits their political interests.

  5. Stew Morris says:

    A whammy x time over. Fiddled (un)employment stats, probably fiddled inflation figures too. But we have a population that has been tranqualised by “democracy” and fed what William Morris foretold would keep them quiet. Have faith. It will not last. When the majority at last figure out that the right-wing mantra of low taxation is but a mirage, we will kick these crooks out for good. But will we replace them with our own particular version ?

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