Going to work on the employment figures

LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
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There are lies, damn lies and there are statistics.

Never is this more true than when unemployment is the matter at hand.

Pick a job figure, any figure. Give it a massage, strip it of any context, define specific terms, bingo.

Things are on the up!

Such shenanigans have been the stock-in trade of every government my whole adult life.

Consider, for example, the most regularly repeated fact of late that there are currently more people working in Britain than ever before. Around 1.9m more than in 2010!

Three cheers! Hip hip – oh hold on, the populationhas risen by 2m-odd since 2010 and, as each citizen brings along an intrinsic quantity of economic activity the number of jobs should naturally rise, chipping away at that 1.9m.

So the percentage of people in work would probably be the more reliable figure, but how exciting does a rise from 72 per cent to 73 per cent sound?

So go with the numbers. But not, however, when conversation turns from quantity of ‘jobs’ to the flight from full to part-time which has marked the last ten years of British work culture.

Numbers here cause only alarm! Happily, the conversation seldom turns there much, because no main party has clean hands.

More than 8.3m currently work part time (slightly more than 1m of whom want but can’t find full-time positions), up 500,000+ since 2010.

That’s the highest number ever too, but shush. Oh, how Labour must long to pounce on this – and surely would, had the trend not been marked and hastening on their watch too.

Ditto zero hours contracts, which accounted for around 70,000 positions circa 2004, while today around 500,000 workers are in this solely business-friendly trap.

Not forgetting, of course, the rise of ‘apprenticeships’, that 21st century spin on the YTS, in the vast number of cases merely a way of ‘parking’ unemployed youngsters for six months, same as back then.

The current government does, however, blaze a trail in one regard, having set a new benchmark when it comes to aggressively reducing the number claiming Job Seekers’ Allowance (JSA).

An Oxford University report last year estimated 500,000 or so had been ‘sanctioned’ off JSA without actually having employment to go to. Which is tough on them, but great for the damned statistics.