Unemployment falls - behind the numbers

Figures out today show that unemployment fell in the three months to November for the first time since May 2008.  This is good news because it marks a pause, or a halt, to rising unemployment much earlier than most people had feared only a few months ago.  Labour should see this as vindication of its employment focused policies.  Cutting public spending now as the Conservatives call for (actually they wanted to cut spending months ago) would probably push unemployment much higher.  But we should not get carried away.

 

As the Office for National Statistics states, unemployment fell by 7,000 (the claimant count fell for the second month in a row) but employment levels fell too, by 14,000.  There were 28.92 million people in work in the quarter.  There were 1.03 million people working part time because they were unable to work full time.  This is the highest level since 1992 when the data were first collected.  This may represent a change in our  labour market ie it is more flexible.  This can be grim going into a recession but can mean employment picks up with growth.  This recession seems to have affected many sectors of the economy at the same time but it doesn't appear to have knocked out whole industries, despite some very hard times for people.  Firms seem to have this time around reduced the hours worked by employees too.

 

People are more confident about the future economically when they have less fear of rising unemployment.  These figures today may help there.  However, we need to see a trend before we can draw conclusions.  At least however, it does suggest that there is a drag on unemployment rising at the moment, which is a good thing.

 


Stephen Beer, 20/01/2010

 
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