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.

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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.

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A swimming pool and a bleeding toe put my medical competency in doubt

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Sometimes the search engine wins. 

The brutal heatwave affecting southern Europe this summer has become known among locals as “Lucifer”. Having just returned from Italy, I fully understand the nickname. An early excursion caused the beginnings of sunstroke, so we abandoned plans to explore the cultural heritage of the Amalfi region and strayed no further than five metres from the hotel pool for the rest of the week.

The children were delighted, particularly my 12-year-old stepdaughter, Gracie, who proceeded to spend hours at a time playing in the water. Towelling herself after one long session, she noticed something odd.

“What’s happened there?” she asked, holding her foot aloft in front of my face.

I inspected the proffered appendage: on the underside of her big toe was an oblong area of glistening red flesh that looked like a chunk of raw steak.

“Did you injure it?”

She shook her head. “It doesn’t hurt at all.”

I shrugged and said she must have grazed it. She wasn’t convinced, pointing out that she would remember if she had done that. She has great faith in plasters, though, and once it was dressed she forgot all about it. I dismissed it, too, assuming it was one of those things.

By the end of the next day, the pulp on the underside of all of her toes looked the same. As the doctor in the family, I felt under some pressure to come up with an explanation. I made up something about burns from the hot paving slabs around the pool. Gracie didn’t say as much, but her look suggested a dawning scepticism over my claims to hold a medical degree.

The next day, Gracie and her new-found holiday playmate, Eve, abruptly terminated a marathon piggy-in-the-middle session in the pool with Eve’s dad. “Our feet are bleeding,” they announced, somewhat incredulously. Sure enough, bright-red blood was flowing, apparently painlessly, from the bottoms of their big toes.

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Often, what patients discover on the internet causes them undue alarm, and our role is to provide context and reassurance. But not infrequently, people come across information that outstrips our knowledge. On my return from our room with fresh supplies of plasters, my wife looked up from her sun lounger with an air of quiet amusement.

“It’s called ‘pool toe’,” she said, handing me her iPhone. The page she had tracked down described the girls’ situation exactly: friction burns, most commonly seen in children, caused by repetitive hopping about on the abrasive floors of swimming pools. Doctors practising in hot countries must see it all the time. I doubt it presents often to British GPs.

I remained puzzled about the lack of pain. The injuries looked bad, but neither Gracie nor Eve was particularly bothered. Here the internet drew a blank, but I suspect it has to do with the “pruning” of our skin that we’re all familiar with after a soak in the bath. This only occurs over the pulps of our fingers and toes. It was once thought to be caused by water diffusing into skin cells, making them swell, but the truth is far more fascinating.

The wrinkling is an active process, triggered by immersion, in which the blood supply to the pulp regions is switched off, causing the skin there to shrink and pucker. This creates the biological equivalent of tyre treads on our fingers and toes and markedly improves our grip – of great evolutionary advantage when grasping slippery fish in a river, or if trying to maintain balance on slick wet rocks.

The flip side of this is much greater friction, leading to abrasion of the skin through repeated micro-trauma. And the lack of blood flow causes nerves to shut down, depriving us of the pain that would otherwise alert us to the ongoing tissue damage. An adaptation that helped our ancestors hunt in rivers proves considerably less use on a modern summer holiday.

I may not have seen much of the local heritage, but the trip to Italy taught me something new all the same. 

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear