UK unemployment falls 18,000 but wages squeezed again - with UnemployedNet comment

Wed, 16/10/2013 - 12:41 -- nick

Unemployment has fallen by 18,000 to 2.49 million people over the last three months, while the number claiming Jobseeker's Allowance fell by 41,700 to 1.35 million.

Joblessness now stands at 7.7% of the UK workforce.

There was a small fall in long-term unemployment, but no change in the number of young unemployed people even as the number who are economically inactive rose 22,000 to 2.66 million.

Employment saw a big rise between June and August 2013, up 155,000 to 29.87 million, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

There was also a drop of 83,000 in the overall number of economically inactive people, including those on disabilty and sickness benefits and lone parents, to 8.95 million.

There was worse news for wages though; total pay including bonuses is rising even more slowly than previously, up only 0.7% while basic pay was also up only 0.8%.

With inflation remaining static at 2.7%, people are still getting poorer in work.

With previous issues around the quality of employment the last quarter saw more full-time jobs being created rather than part-time.

However, the total number working part-time only because they could not get full time work still rose to a record 1.45 million.

Despite debate around the value of public sector wages leading to below-inflation pay rises for state workers, excluding publicly-owned banks the average for both was £473.

The Institute of Directors' economist Graeme Leach said:

"Today's labour market figures are not surprising. Just as employment losses during the recession were lower than expected, so too are employment gains with recovery. This isn't a jobless recovery but it is a job-lite one."

UnemployedNet says:

The lowering unemployment figures look like good news, but they hide more misery than first appears.

A fall of 18,000 in overall worklessness is welcome, but the far bigger drop of 41,700 in those claiming Jobseeker's Allowance is less so.

The problem is sanctions. Too many are having their benefits taken away for the most spurious reasons - a Tumblr account has been started to document some of them - creating widespread poverty.

People have been contacting UnemployedNet and others complaining about their benefits being taken away for missing a single meeting - often for unavoidable reasons, sometimes for attending a job interview - with their advisor, and the figures show the number of sanctions has increased sharply under the current government.

It appears that part of the apparent success of the government in reducing unemployment is in using sanctions to recategorise genuinely unemployed people out of the figures.

Withdrawing the small allowance of £71.70 from some of the poorest people in the country is hugely cavalier and short-sighted.

The kind of suffering caused has to come out somewhere, and hungry people may eventually be forced to turn to crime.

Foodbank use has already doubled over the last year, but they do not cover the whole country and people in difficulty are limited to a few uses each year.

The government must make clear that sanctions are a last resort for multiple offenders, not a first resort that is consistently used to lower the unemployment figures and the benefit bill.

Don't imagine that this is a simple matter of finding work; although there was a small rise in the number of vacancies in the last quarter, there are still nearly five jobseekers chasing each job, and that number rises to more than 50 in some areas.

Unless the government invests in real job creation in the areas that need it most, bigger falls in unemployment across the whole country, backed by living wages, will be a long way off, and sanctions are likely to be used even more as a way to lower joblessness.

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