IDS gets his figures wrong: there are 23% fewer vacancies than he thinks
On last night’s Newsnight Ian Duncan Smith informed viewers that there were just short of half a million vacancies available across the UK’s Jobcentre network. This is simply not true. The number of vacancies notified to Jobcentre Plus in August 2010 (the most recent publicly available data) was 383,344 (and in preceeding months during the same quarter the level was even lower). This is 23 per cent less than the 500,000 cited by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. In addition, 10 per cent of the notified vacancies are ‘self-employed’ jobs, which are likely to provide no guaranteed minimum wage, long hours and limited reward (for example, see the self-employed car valet we featured in the report of our Commission on Vulnerable Employment).
Could the Secretary of State have been thinking of the national vacancy survey – which estimates the total number of vacancies across the economy, not just those notified to Jobcentres? But this survey shows that (as we reported earlier this month in our Labour Market Report) the number of vacancies has now seen three consecutive monthly falls. In September there were 459,000 vacancies across the economy, 30,000 down on the quarter. Since the start of the recession in April 2008 the vacancy level has fallen by 233,000 (34 per cent).
Ian Duncan Smith also appeared to claim that the national employment level increased by 280,000 in the most recent three month period. Again, this is simply wrong. The most recent data show an increase of 178,000 in the employment level, with the rate of increase slowing towards the end of the quarter and the number of full-time jobs falling on the month.
The most recent labour market data do demonstrate that one measure is rising – the ratio of jobs to unemployed people is now 1: 5.2. Even if every unemployed person in the country got ‘on the bus’, and found a job (one that matched with their skills and experience in an area of the country that they could feasibly commute to while undertaking family and caring responsibilities), four fifths of them would still be looking for work. After cutting support for jobseekers, the Department for Work and Pension’s new strategy seems to be to tell people to imagine that there is work for them to do – evidence suggests that it isn’t going to work.