Thursday, 24 January 2013

Employment is falling, unemployment is rising

Just wanted to make a quick post about how our government, and the media, is absolutely misleading us on the "success" of our economic fight back in terms of the new jobs being created. You will hear each month how many more tens of thousands of people are in work, and that less people are unemployed...yet it never tallies with our country's economic growth. Indeed the reality is that while we can be cautiously, very cautiously, optimistic on employment, our unemployment levels have been rising for a decade, and aren't slowing.

Here is the data, all taken from the Labour Force Survey (the vertical axis is percentage of population age 16-64 that year, horizontal is the year), with 2012 compiled from average data from 2012 we have so far...

Trends for Employment, Unemployment and Economic Inactivity since 1971 for all aged 16-64

From this you should be able to see that employment has generally slightly increased since 1971, but so has unemployment. The economically inactive have moved in to those two "definitions". However that's just the trend, which may not be entirely appropriate for this range of dates, since it is completely clear that we are facing our biggest employment crisis since the last time the Tories were in power. However we are clearly not suffering to the level we were in the 80s.

This picture is a little too long, the best we can say is that we aren't doing well right now on employment, and out unemployment has been an ongoing problem for over a decade...

Trends for Employment, Unemployment and Economic Inactivity since 1997 for all aged 16-64 this graph shows. Starting with when Labour took power. Employment is obvious, it was rising under Labour, then the recession hit, and it's barely recovering now. This does not mean that employment trends are not now on the rise.

But the interesting thing is unemployment. That too is still on the rise, and has been since sometime in Labour's second term. The recession boosted unemployment levels, but they're still growing. Recent unemployment tallies mostly with the recession effect, but there is also a clear correlation between a drop in economic inactivity and unemployment.

Is this because Labour and the coalition have made it harder to exist outside of the working/not working dichotomy? Is it an effect of an aging population? Is it just more political tinkering with who is defined as what in an age where higher education and other programs have grown?

Trends for Employment, Unemployment and Economic Inactivity since 1997 for MALES aged 16-64

Looking at men, the general shape of rates of employment match closely to the data for both genders with two key differences. First, the drops and rises are much more pronounced. The recession hit men harder, but they are also recovering jobs and getting out of unemployment better than women (graph below).

Second, more and more men are moving in to economic inactivity. This is showing cautious signs of change in 2012, but it is interesting to see that men since Labour have taken power have moved generally out of unemployment and in to economic inactivity.

Trends for Employment, Unemployment and Economic Inactivity since 1997 for FEMALES aged 16-64

The effects of the recession had a more limited effect on women, and since Labour took power, and through the coalition, there has been a drop in economic activity levels. But when you hear that the coalition is hurting women the most it is this data that proves it. Unlike the men unemployment is still on the rise for women, consistently so. Meanwhile employment opportunities seem to be fairly stagnant.


The fact is that our employment rates are nothing to be celebrating. We should be happy they aren't dropping but there are only slight signs of consistent recovery right now. Women are suffering under unemployment and we don't necessarily know how many people have moved from a relatively "good" position in economic inactivity to a bad one of unemployment. In general for every cheer you give for our unemployment, you should give a groan for unemployment rising too.

As for "records" that are talked of being broken, our employment rate now compared to 1971 is not favourable, and isn't anywhere near as good as it was under Labour. Unemployment, on the other hand, is growing dangerously close to being comparable to the early 90s, which should be concerning the coalition a whole lot more than it is as it cuts budgets and locks people in to cycles of poverty with their social security cutting policy, and draconian benefit workfare schemes.

*caveats apply, the way that these terms are defined will have been tweaked as time has gone on, for example people that are currently being forced to work for no pay, just to keep their meager benefits are not counted as unemployed, they will at worst be counted as economically inactive.

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