Today’s unemployment figures provide welcome signs that sharp rises in unemployment levels may be behind us. But there are mixed messages – young people and those at risk of long-term unemployment are feeling the effects of the downturn much more than other groups.
Unemployment increased 30,000 on the quarter, to 2,461,000 for the July-September period. However, short-term unemployment of under six months fell 99,000, while unemployment of over 6 and up to 12 months increased by 57,000 and unemployment of over 12 months increased 71,000. 618,000 workers have now been unemployed for over 12 months – 25.1% of all unemployed people. These data suggest that while flows of new workers into unemployment are slowing, those who have already spent significant amounts of time out of the labour market are facing real risks of long-term worklessness.
Working age employment levels showed a quarterly fall of 23,000, from 27,547,000 (April-June) to 27,524,000 (July-September). But more detailed employment data clearly show the effects that the downturn has had for young people, as there is significant variation in employment trends by age . Employment for 16-24 year olds fell by 89,000 on the quarter, while employment for those aged 25-64 (men)/59(women) increased by 67,000. On the year employment among 16-24 year olds has fallen by 367,000, while among the entire population of those aged 25-64 (men)/59(women) it has fallen by 200,000. Specifically among 50-64 (men)/59(women) year olds, employment has increased 18,000 on the year.
There are further signs of ongoing labour market weakness. Rates of involuntary part-time and temporary work are continuing to rise. During July-September 997,000 part-time workers were undertaking part-time work because they could not find a full-time job (13.2% of all part-time workers, and a 30,000 quarterly increase) and 463,000 temporary workers could not find a permanent job (32.3% of all temporary workers and a 34,000 quarterly increase).
Economic inactivity is also rising – although not yet as quickly as we have seen in previous recessions (a quarterly increase of 41,000). There was a fall of 23,000 in the number of economically inactive people looking after family/home, and a fall of 12,000 in the number who are temporarily sick. There was an increase of 26,000 in the numbers of people long-term sick, 64,000 in the number of students and 13,000 in the number of discouraged workers. Of real concern is the increasing numbers of economically inactive people who want to work. Over the quarter the number of economically inactive people who want a job rose by 101,000 to 2,244,000 out of a total of 5,753,000 – 39% of economically inactive people are now in this position.
Government investment in continuing to tackle unemployment is vital – with young people at risk of long-term unemployment in the greatest need of immediate help. The Future Jobs Fund is an essential part of the existing support package – Conservative plans to cut it risk leaving more young people out of work now and for years into the future.