Unemployment up 15,000 to 2.52m people - with UnemployedNet comment

Wed, 15/05/2013 - 12:18 -- nick

Unemployment in the UK rose by 15,000 over the last three months, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has confirmed.

This is the third rise in a row, bringing an end to the falling joblessness seen in 2012, and means the unemployment rate rose by 0.1% to 7.9%.

Reasonable growth in the number of jobs had been one consolation for the government in previous months, but this came to a shuddering halt with 43,000 fewer people in work over January - March 2013 than in October - December 2012.

And to complete the misery, total pay went up by only 0.4% last year, while inflation currently stands at 2.8%, meaning living standards across the country are being eroded rapidly.

This tiny rise in wages was the lowest since the depths of the recession in 2009, and represented a halving of the 0.8% rise shown last month.

One small shaft of light was the increase in job vacancies: 503,000 were available in February to April 2013, up 11,000 compared with the previous three months.

However, this still means there are more than five jobseekers chasing each vacancy, and there is likely to be concern that unemployed people do not have the skills to meet the needs of available jobs.

Mark Hoban, the Employment Minister, called the figures "disappointing", but highlighted a fall of 7,300 to 1.52 million in the number claiming Jobseeker's Allowance.

But Martin Beck, an economist at Capital Economics, said "Following recent positive news on the economy, today's UK labour market data provides something of a reality check".

UnemployedNet says:

The triple-whammy of rising unemployment, falling employment and falling wages is likely to hurt many in the UK, and we must not forget the people behind the figures.

Recent patterns of improving employment provided some cover for the government's inaction on creating jobs to help them.

They could point to healthy-looking private sector job creation as evidence that their hands-off approach was working.

These latest figures should make them think again about taking a more proactive approach, and UnemployedNet calls on the government to make bigger investments in the kind of infrastructure projects that create quick jobs.

A report this week for the London Assembly showed that 150,000 skilled construction workers are claiming Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) in London alone, and government-funded infrastructure projects, desperately needed in the capital, could make a huge dent in this number.

The fall of 7,300 to 1.52 million in the number claiming JSA nationwide looks like the one shaft of light for unemployed people in these figures.

However, given the reduction in the number of jobs available this may be related to recent news that the number of claimant sanctions has been increasing, with the Citizens Advice Bureau dealing with twice as many enquiries on sanctions compared with a year earlier.

The removal of income from jobseekers leads to huge hardship, and the government, as well as all UK citizens, need to ask themselves whether this is really conducive to finding a job.

The reduction in living standards is truly shocking, with a 0.4% annual rise in wages coming at a time when inflation is running at 2.8%.

This is doubly difficult for unemployed people.

Firstly, sympathy is likely to be in short supply from those employees experiencing their own hardship.

Secondly, most unemployed people are actually 'pre-employed' - ready and likely to get a job within a reasonable time - and reducing wages are likely to make it more difficult to find work they can afford to take.

Making work pay more than benefits is a stated aim of the government, and rather than constantly reducing the value of benefits to achieve this, and embedding hardship, it must be time to take action on pay, including introducing legislation to impose the living wage on employers.

This would have huge benefits to low paid and pre-employed people, and could even save the government money if companies take some of the cost which is currently met from the public purse through tax credits.

Main Stories: