Unemployment at 15 year high

Figures set to reveal 2.5 million people out of work

Figures released today are expected to show the number of unemployed people in Britain has hit 2.5 million, a 15 year high.

Although recent signs, such as the banks starting to make profits again, imply that the recession may have passed it's worst phase, unemployment figures traditionally lag behind.

The three months to May saw a rise of 281,000 in unemployment rates, bringing the number to 2.38 million. Experts expect a similar scale of increase in the quarter to June.

Unemployment is rising fastest among those aged 18 to 24, with a current jobless rate of one in six. Economists predict that youth unemployment will reach 1 million this autumn as a new batch of school and college leavers flood the jobs market.

These grim figures come as the governments prepares to investigate why the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance, and the wider Labour Force Survery (LFS) measure have been diverging. The claimant count is showing a slow down in the rate of increase while the LFS is increasing at a record pace.

Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokesman, Steve Webb, said: "Three quarters of a million people are missing out on unemployment benefit despite being classified as out of work on internationally accepted definitions.

"Families who have lost a second income stream and are unable to meet their mortgage repayments need help. Government schemes need to be beefed up so households get the support they need to avoid repossession."

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.