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Good news for the Government in the new labour market statistics

By Mark Wallace
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Growth ConHomeThe latest labour market statistics from the ONS contains five key pieces of good news for the Government:

  1. The number of people in work in March-May 2013 rose by 16,000 on the previous quarter, and is up 336,000 on the same quarter last year - to 29.71 million
  2. Unemployment in March-May 2013 is down by 57,000 on the previous quarter, and down 72,000 on the year, to 2.51 million
  3. The number claiming Job Seekers' Allowance in June 2013 is now 1,479,000 - down 21,200 on May 2013 and a fall of 117,700 since June 2012
  4. March-May 2013 saw redundancies fall to 118,000, down from 137,000 in the previous quarter and 147,000 in the same quarter last year
  5. There are more job vacancies, with an average of 529,000 unfulfilled vacancies in April-June 2013, up 24,000 on the previous quarter and 56,000 on a year ago

More jobs, fewer people relying on JSA and fewer redundancies will undoubtedly stir some smiles in the Treasury.

The detail holds some encouraging news, too. Given concerns about underemployment, it is welcome that there is a sizeable increase in full-time jobs. The fall in the JSA claimant count is spread across every region of the UK, which is an improvement on previous regional divides. A third of the fall in unemployment came from young people moving into work.

That said, it isn't all plain sailng:

  1. While employment is up and unemployment is down, the employment rate as a percentage of the population slipped slightly by 0.1% on the previous quarter (though it is still up by 0.6% on the same period last year)
  2. Similarly, the economic inactivity rate is up by 0.2% on the previous quarter (though it is 0.4% down on the same period last year)
  3. We don't know how many of the newly employed workers in the labour market are migrants rather than previously unemployed members of the UK workforce
  4. While average wages have risen, they are still outstripped by inflation, meaning the squeeze on living standards continue

Labour market statistics are not only complex, they can be somewhat confused. Numbers on employment, unemployment, inactivity and JSA claimants decoupled from each other some time ago and can sometimes be contradictory.

The complexities will undoubtedly be raised by the Opposition, but the top lines are clear. More people are in work, more opportunities are available for the unemployed and reliance on welfare is falling. That is good economic news but it is also an immensely positive human story, reducing the blight of unemployment on people's lives.


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