THE BLOG

Unemployment Falls Slow as Government Overstates Recovery

20/04/2015 15:43 BST | Updated 17/06/2015 10:59 BST

The monthly unemployment figures released today show a continuation of recent falls, with 76,000 fewer out of work between December and February and the rate down to 5.6%.

This continued a slowing in falls, with 102,000 shown last month, and this is to be expected as fewer people are out of work and fewer are available with the right skills to take up opportunities.

More job vacancies are now available, and it must be hoped that this will provide more high-quality work options for unemployed people.

Continuing above-inflation pay rises of 1.7% on average look positive, but there is little information on how these have been shared around, and it is likely that those on low incomes are not benefiting with employers often aware that fear of joining the draconian welfare system is scaring people into accepting unreasonable settlements.

There is still a problem with the way wages are calculated by the ONS; they do not include the earnings of more than 4.5 million self-employed people who earn less on average than a full-time minimum wage employee, and improvements are likely to be overstated because of this.

Our current historic low inflation rate has been reached almost entirely due to plummeting petrol prices, and these are likely to remain volatile, meaning future prices - and inflation - could easily outstrip wages again soon. Few unemployed people can afford to use petrol meaning their personal inflation rates are higher than many other people's.

Don't forget that the coalition used low wage rises to justify the 1% annual increase in benefits that had spread poverty even further among the unemployed; now pay has seen an improvement will they step away from this measure?

The number who were economically inactive fell due to fewer students and fewer people looking after their homes after recent rises.

The apparently positive figures, coming in the middle of a fierce election campaign, will be seized on by David Cameron as evidence that his economic policies are working.

But his claim that his government has created 1,000 jobs every day since they came to power in 2010 has been criticised, including by UnemployedNet, and we pointed out that 'jobs' is a very loose term when bandied around by the PM.

It is true that 1.8 million more people are - on the surface of it - in work since 2010, and that works out at roughly 1,000 per day.

It is when you dig a bit deeper that things start to unravel.

Only from the middle of 2013 were more employee jobs created than lost.

Of the 1.1 million rise in the number in work between 2008 and 2014, 732,000 were actually in self-employment.

So nearly three-quarters were people signing on to work for themselves, often without any success and on average earning less than a full-time minimum wage employee, hardly the entrepreneurial revolution the Tories are keen to promote.

The reality of Conservative insecurity on jobs is shown by the almost total absence of work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith from the election campaign, now seen to be a poisoned chalice and damaging to the prospects of Cameron leading another government.