From the TUC

Recession report #14: Mixed news in a fragile labour market

07 Jan 2010, by in Economic Reports, Economics, Labour market

Today we have published our 14th Recession Report, which looks at the labour market data for the period August to October 2009 (with November data for some indicators).  As was widely reported in December, the release showed that claimant unemployment had fallen by 6,300 between October and November – a result of a reducation in in-flows (new claimants) and an increase in off-flows (people leaving JSA). Inactivity data were also better than we could have expected they would be at this point in the downturn. Although levels of economic inactivity increased over the year, this was as a result of a rise in students – the number of people economically inactive for other reasons actually saw an annual reduction. And while ILO unemployment is still rising, the speed at which is increasing is continuing to slow.

But although this is good news a full labour market recovery is a long way off. Indicators of ongoing fragility include large proportional increases in the numbers of workers who are inactive becuase they can’t find work and have given up looking, sharp reductions in the number of full-time jobs and fast rising levels of long-term unemployment. The number of people out of work for over 12 months is now a matter for major policy concern – and the findings from the second section of our report, which focuses on the health impacts of unemployment, show why.

The relationship between unemployment and health has been studied for a long time, and the link between unemployment and premature death has been established since 1940. In March 1991, Richard Smith, the then executive editor of the British Medical Journal, greeted that decade’s recession with a famous editorial: “Unemployment: here we go again”. He claimed that:

the evidence that unemployment kills – particularly the middle aged – now verges on the irrefutable.

He pointed to a study of redundancy in a Wiltshire meat products factory that found that redundancy increased consultancy rates by 20 per cent and outpatient hospital visits by 60 per cent. In a follow-up study, “the unemployed men consulted general practitioners 57% more about 13% more illnesses, were referred to hospital outpatient departments 63% more often and visited hospital twice as often.”

In March 2009, the Journal continued the tradition of hard-hitting editorials on this subject when Prof Danny Dorling asked considered the probable impact of rising unemployment on health. The editorial noted research showing the links between suicide and unemployment (looked at in more detail in our full Recession Report) and that unemployment “increases rates of depression, particularly in the young”. Dorling quoted research looking at men who had been continuously employed for at least five years in the late 1970s – it found that mortality doubled in the five years after redundancy for those aged 40 – 59 in 1980.

The evidence base in this area is incredibly strong – there are clear and concerning links between unemployment and poor physical and mental health. This extensive evidence demonstrates the importance of Governments ensuring that proactive strategies are in place to prevent widespread long-term unemployment taking hold. Such an approach is vital to protecting individuals and families, as well as to limiting future social and economic costs.

9 Responses to Recession report #14: Mixed news in a fragile labour market

  1. Naomi Alexander
    Jan 7th 2010, 5:45 pm

    This latest TUC recession report makes interesting reading, outlining that there is still a long way to go, particularly in deprived areas that never really benefited from the economic boom of the last 10 years.

    The links between health and unemployment are well argued here and something that we at the CREATE Consortium have been concerned about for years. The benefits trap keeps people out of work and stops community organisations from employing local unemployed people in the part time or sessional work that has a positive impact on the health of a community.

    Will Hutton wrote a piece for us about this exact issue recently that we will be publishing on our blog in the next few weeks:

    We believe a Community Allowance would make a positive contribution to the health and well-being of unemployed people and deprived places.

  2. Tweets that mention Recession report #14: Mixed news in a fragile labour market | ToUChstone blog: A public policy blog from the TUC —
    Jan 7th 2010, 5:46 pm

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  3. Nicola Smith

    Jan 8th 2010, 5:10 pm

    Thanks Adam for highlighting these very useful reports. Working to a deadline we can’t always cover as much as we’d like, but great that you’ve flagged these references up.

  4. Adam Coutts
    Jan 8th 2010, 5:41 pm

    Nicola, do get in touch with me if you need any literature/evidence etc for future reports.
    [email protected] / [email protected]

    I thought this project may also be of interest. Good resources for empirical evidence

  5. Stephen Brooks
    Jan 8th 2010, 6:53 pm

    Other than saying what is the government doing about the health and social impact of unemployment the unions and the TUC must themselves begin to take a more proactive approach to supporting the unemployed.
    What are unions doing about keeping up links with there unemployed members? There should be greater efforts to communicate with members via email newsletters like many other organisations can; they should be maintaining membership for unemployed members via internet networks and be helping them find new jobs/training opportunities/peer support/helplines. What are the TUC Centres for the Unemployed up to. They should be linking in to unemployed members by also using the opportunities of the internet.

    I think the Touchstone blog to be a real enterprising adventure. But the TUC should be leading the unions on the development of the internet for members and not leave it to some of the more ideological grass root groups.

  6. TUC Recession Report No. 14 « Connected Research
    Jan 8th 2010, 7:30 pm

    […] leave a comment » The TUC has published its most recent Recession Report, which can be accessed via Nicola Smith’s blog posting on ToUChstone here. […]

  7. Nicola Smith

    Jan 11th 2010, 10:17 am

    Hi Stephen, you might be interested in the blog that is run by our organising team:, and also in our union reps website, and – if you work for a union – in this information and networking site:

    The TUC and unionlearn have been developing a programme of work to support unions during the downturn, most recently through the development of our recession and recovery project – there are more details here:

    As you point out there is always much more than could be done, but it would also be unfair to suggest we have taken no action on these issues.

  8. Labour’s “job guarantee” vital in fight against long term unemployment | Left Foot Forward
    Jan 18th 2010, 3:53 pm

    […] negative impacts of long-term worklessness for individuals are well documented, including the increased likelihood of mental health problems, relationship breakdown, alcohol […]