Jobs stats confirm disastrous state of labour market for young people

If today’s figures mark the start of a widely predicted increase in unemployment, more and more people could find themselves getting less and less help.

Today’s employment figures are very bad. Covering the last three months of 2010, nearly every indicator is worse when compared with the data for June to August. Employment is down 68,000, unemployment is up 44,000 and the number of people on Jobseeker’s Allowance is up 2,400. The employment rate is down 0.3 percentage points and the unemployment rate is up 0.1 points.

Long-term unemployment is up too, with the number unemployed over a year up 17,000 to 833,000 and the number unemployed over two years is up eleven thousand to 339,000.

The figures confirm the disastrous state of the labour market for young people.

Unemployment actually came down for people aged 25-49 (by 13,000) and over 50 (by 9,000) but rose (by 24,000) for 16 and 17 year olds and those aged 18-24 (by 42,000). Total youth unemployment is now 965,000, the highest recorded since records began in 1992.

The number of people in involuntary atypical work grew again, as it has since the start of the recession. There was a 4,000 fall in the number of people in part-time jobs because they couldn’t find a full-time alternative, but a 27,000 increase in the number in involuntary temporary work.

There are 1,771,000 people in involuntary part-time and temporary work, the highest total since records began in 1992:

At first sight, there’s some good news in the vacancy figures, which show an increase of 40,000. But, for the second month running. this figure is distorted by the temporary vacancies for Census enumerators.

The Office for National Statistics press release includes a note about this, and points out that without these jobs the increase would be a much less impressive 8,000 from the three months to October

Chris Grayling’s response to this unusually poor set of results was weird:

“…things do now seem to be stabilising. The rise in the number of vacancies is particularly encouraging.”

Last month, he hailed the increase in vacancies even though, without the census jobs, the number actually fell. This month they have gone up, though I’d hardly describe the increase as “particularly encouraging”.

The government is particularly vulnerable on unemployment at the moment. Last night, Laura Kuenssberg reported that officials expect the number of unemployed people who participate in the Work Programme to be substantially lower the numbers who took part in the existing welfare-to-work programmes.

She reported that about 850,000 people took part in the old schemes in 2009-10, but that 605,000 would take part in 2011-12 and 565,000 in 2012-13. (The 850,000 figure must refer to every single programme, including the Future Jobs Fund and other Young Person’s Guarantee and Six Month Offer schemes, Employment Zones, Pathways to Work and the various New Deal programmes.)

“A Whitehall source” countered with two points that are likely to be the essence of the Government’s defence: one is that the difference is because of a “big jump” in the numbers being referred. This is pretty weak – certainly there was a big jump between 2008/9 and 2009/10, but there’s no sign of the “big fall” that would be necessary to explain the discrepancy:

Claimant count unemployment, 16+, UK, not seasonally adjusted

January 2007 965,097
January 2008 830,542
January 2009 1,282,645
January 2010 1,654,025
January 2011 1,505,068

In fact, most people expect unemployment to rise this year, making this explanation even harder to accept. The anonymous source had a second defence – that:

“…there would be more intensive help for people at Job Centres even if they were not on the work programme.”

The same argument is being offered up to fend off criticism of the decision to close down two programmes for disabled people – Pathways to Work and the New Deal for disabled people – before the Work Programme is in place to take them on. This problem was inevitable, given the government’s decision to end the existing programmes in the spring, when the contracts run out, but not start the Work Programme till June.

In the case of non-disabled unemployed people, providers’ contracts are being extended to cover the gap, but there doesn’t seem to be the money to do this for disabled people. The unfortunate claimants caught in the middle will be handed back to their local Job Centres for whatever support they can offer.

Which won’t be much: Jobcentre Plus faces 25 per cent cuts (even the Telegraph calls them “sweeping”), with 9,300 jobs lost by 2013.

Already PCS members are reporting that backlogs of claims are hitting JCP performance, so it seems unlikely that disabled people – or anyone else – will be getting “more intensive help”. If today’s figures mark the start of a widely predicted increase in unemployment, more and more people could find themselves getting less and less help.

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