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Greg Clark Letter from a Treasury Minister

Greg Clark MP: The good news on jobs

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Unemployment continues to fall. The latest figures, published last week, showed that the number of people looking for work and claiming unemployment benefits fell by 12,500 in the last month to stand at 1.54 million.

Nevertheless, the headline figures must seem remote to the anxieties of anyone who does lose their job. Becoming unemployed can be a shocking and terrifying experience – especially for people who have an unbroken record of employment throughout a long career. In this position, it is easy for someone to imagine that they will never get back into work or, at least, face a protracted struggle before they do.

Unemployment, even for a period of weeks, can put household finances – and family relationships – under severe strain, especially given the long-term accumulation of personal debt in our society.

Britain’s long-term prosperity depends upon a rebalancing of its economy towards financially-sustainable, wealth-creating industries. Since the election over a million new jobs have been created – outnumbering by more than two to one jobs lost. But because jobs will be lost in some sectors and gained in others, it is vital that we have a labour market that enables people to move into new jobs with the minimum of delay.

So, how is the labour market performing in this regard?

The latest figures show that of all the people who made a new claim for Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA) this time last year, almost 90 per cent had been able to come off the allowance within 12 months.  Furthermore, this figure – the ‘off-flow rate’ - showed that around 75 per cent had come off JSA within six months and nearly 60 per cent within three months of first making a claim.

For young people – aged 18 to 24 – the prospect of coming off benefits within a few months is high. Around 95 per cent of young people who came onto JSA 12 months ago have since ended their claim, while over 80 per cent were off JSA within six months and around two-thirds within three months of signing on.

Of course, not everyone who stops claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance has gone into full-time work: some people will go into education, for example, others will retire from the labour force and some will claim disability benefits. But most people leaving JSA do go into paid work, most commonly full-time, and most of them will still be in work over six months later.

Overall, the chances of leaving JSA have improved since the General Election and are now at levels comparable with the height of the boom in 2007. Through key reforms like the Work Programme and the expansion of apprenticeships we are determined to build upon this encouraging trend and add further to the job creating potential of the British economy.

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