Five pieces of bad news from today's employment figures

Including: vacancies down, youth unemployment up and part-time workers up.

After several months of positive employment figures, today's are decidedly negative. Unemployment, which was expected to fall by around 10,000, has actually risen by 38,000 to 2.49m (7.9 per cent). But that's not the only grim statistic in today's data release, below are five other worrying trends.

1. Vacancies down.

The number of vacancies is down 22,000 over the quarter and down 28,000 over the year to 449,000, the lowest number since the three months to November 2009.

2. Youth unemployment up

Youth unemployment has risen by 15,000 to 949,000 (20.2 per cent) over the last quarter. There is a risk that it will rise further as thousands of A-level students enter the labour market for the first time.

The unemployment rate for 16-24 year olds not in full-time education has risen to 18.8 per cent, up 0.5 per cent from the three months to March.

3. Involuntary part-time workers up

The number of people working part-time because they can't find a full-time job has risen to a record high of 1.26m (see graph), up 7 per cent on the quarter and 17 per cent on the year. 16 per cent of Britain's 7.9m part-time workers fall into this category.

A

4. Involuntary temporary workers up

The number of temporary workers who could not find a permanent job (as opposed to those who did not want one) has risen to 601,000, up 29,000 (5.1 per cent) over the last three months and up 33,000 (5.8 per cent) over the last year. 37 per cent of the UK's 1.6m temporary workers fall into this category.

5. Women hit hardest

Female unemployment rose by 21,000 over the quarter (male unemployment rose by 18,000) to reach 1.05m, the highest figure since 1988. With women making up 65 per cent of the public sector workforce, it's unsurprising that they've been hit hardest by the coalition's cuts.

Women also bore the brunt of redundancies with 69,000 made redundant over the last three months, up 25,000 (56.5 per cent) on the quarter and 20,000 (41.5 per cent) on the year.

 

The coalition can still point to the fact that there are now 29.27m people in employment, 251,000 (0.9 per cent) more than year ago, and that the rise in private sector employment has (so far) compensated for the fall in public sector employment. There are 520,000 more private sector workers than a year ago, compared with 143,000 fewer public sector workers. But with the biggest cuts yet to come and growth significantly lower than expected, things could be about to get very grim indeed.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Getty
Show Hide image

David Blunkett compares Labour membership to failed revolution “from Ukraine to Egypt”

The Labour peer and former home secretary says new members need a “meaningful political education”, and accuses unions of neglecting their “historic balance”.

There are three sorts of opposition. There’s the civil society opposition, with people campaigning in their own specific areas, people who’ve got an interest group or are delivering social enterprise or a charity. I don’t think we should underestimate that because we're going to have to hang on to it as part of the renewal of civil society.

The second is the opposition formally, within the House of Commons: those who have agreed to serve as the formal shadow ministerial teams. Because of what I’d describe as the turmoil over the last two years, they’ve either not been able to be impressive – ie. they’re trying very hard but they don't have the coherent leadership or backing to do it – or they’ve got completely different interests to what it is they’re supposed to be doing, and therefore they’re not engaged with the main task.

Then there’s the third, which is the informal opposition – Labour linked sometimes to the Lib Dems and the SNP in Parliament on the opposition benches as a whole. They’re not doing a bad job with the informal opposition. People getting on with their work on select committees, the departmental committees beginning to shape policy that they can hopefully feed to the National Executive Committee, depending on the make-up of the National Executive Committee following this year’s conference. That embryo development of coherent policy thinking will be the seed-bed for the future.

I lived through, worked through, and was integrally involved with, what happened in the early Eighties, so I know it well. And people were in despair after the ‘83 election. Although it took us a long time to pull round, we did. It’s one reason why so many people, quite rightly in my view, don't want to repeat the split of 1931 or the split of 1981.

So they are endeavouring to stay in to argue to have some vision of a better tomorrow, and to persuade those of goodwill who have joined the party – who genuinely believe in a social movement and in extra-parliamentary non-violent activity, which I respect entirely – to persuade them that they’ll only be effective if they can link up with a functioning political process at national level, and at townhall and county level as well.

In other words, to learn the lessons of what’s happened across the world recently as well as in the past, from the Ukraine to Egypt, that if the groundswell doesn’t connect to a functioning party leadership, then, with the best will in the world, it’s not going to achieve its overall goals.

How do we engage with meaningful political education within the broader Labour party and trade union movement, with the substantially increased rank-and-file membership, without being patronising – and without setting up an alternative to Momentum, which would allow Momentum to justify its existence as a party within a party?

That's the challenge of the next two years. It's not just about someone with a vision, who’s charismatic, has leadership qualities, coming forward, that in itself won’t resolve the challenge because this isn't primarily, exclusively about Jeremy Corbyn. This is about the project being entirely on the wrong trajectory.

A lot depends on what the trade unions do. They command effectively the majority on the National Executive Committee. They command the key votes at party conference. And they command the message and resources that go out on the policy or programmes. It’s not just down to personality and who wins the General Secretary of Unite; it’s what the other unions are doing to actually provide their historic balance, because they always have – until now – provided a ballast, foundation, for the Labour party, through thick and thin. And over the last two years, that historic role has diminished considerably, and they seem to just be drifting.

I don’t think anybody should expect there to be a party leadership challenge any time soon. It may be that Jeremy Corbyn might be persuaded at some point to stand down. I was against the challenge against him last year anyway, purely because there wasn't a prepared candidate, there wasn't a policy platform, and there hadn’t been a recruitment drive to back it up.

People shouldn’t expect there to be some sort of white charger out there who will bring an immediate and quick end to the pain we’re going through. I think it’s going to be a readjustment, with people coming to conclusions in the next two years that might lead the party to be in a position to fight a credible general election in 2020. I’ve every intention of laying down some good red wine and still being alive to drink it when the Labour party is elected back to power.

David Blunkett is a Labour peer and former home secretary and education secretary.

As told to Anoosh Chakelian.

This article first appeared in the 30 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Wanted: an opposition