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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Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Andrea Leadsom as Environment Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

A little over a week into Andrea Leadsom’s new role as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and senior industry figures are already questioning her credentials. A growing list of campaigners have called for her resignation, and even the Cabinet Office implied that her department's responsibilities will be downgraded.

So far, so bad.

The appointment would appear to be something of a consolation prize, coming just days after Leadsom pulled out of the Conservative leadership race and allowed Theresa May to enter No 10 unopposed.

Yet while Leadsom may have been able to twist the truth on her CV in the City, no amount of tampering will improve the agriculture-related side to her record: one barely exists. In fact, recent statements made on the subject have only added to her reputation for vacuous opinion: “It would make so much more sense if those with the big fields do the sheep, and those with the hill farms do the butterflies,” she told an audience assembled for a referendum debate. No matter the livelihoods of thousands of the UK’s hilltop sheep farmers, then? No need for butterflies outside of national parks?

Normally such a lack of experience is unsurprising. The department has gained a reputation as something of a ministerial backwater; a useful place to send problematic colleagues for some sobering time-out.

But these are not normal times.

As Brexit negotiations unfold, Defra will be central to establishing new, domestic policies for UK food and farming; sectors worth around £108bn to the economy and responsible for employing one in eight of the population.

In this context, Leadsom’s appointment seems, at best, a misguided attempt to make the architects of Brexit either live up to their promises or be seen to fail in the attempt.

At worst, May might actually think she is a good fit for the job. Leadsom’s one, water-tight credential – her commitment to opposing restraints on industry – certainly has its upsides for a Prime Minister in need of an alternative to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP); a policy responsible for around 40 per cent the entire EU budget.

Why not leave such a daunting task in the hands of someone with an instinct for “abolishing” subsidies  thus freeing up money to spend elsewhere?

As with most things to do with the EU, CAP has some major cons and some equally compelling pros. Take the fact that 80 per cent of CAP aid is paid out to the richest 25 per cent of farmers (most of whom are either landed gentry or vast, industrialised, mega-farmers). But then offset this against the provision of vital lifelines for some of the UK’s most conscientious, local and insecure of food producers.

The NFU told the New Statesman that there are many issues in need of urgent attention; from an improved Basic Payment Scheme, to guarantees for agri-environment funding, and a commitment to the 25-year TB eradication strategy. But that they also hope, above all, “that Mrs Leadsom will champion British food and farming. Our industry has a great story to tell”.

The construction of a new domestic agricultural policy is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Britain to truly decide where its priorities for food and environment lie, as well as to which kind of farmers (as well as which countries) it wants to delegate their delivery.

In the context of so much uncertainty and such great opportunity, Leadsom has a tough job ahead of her. And no amount of “speaking as a mother” will change that.

India Bourke is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.