Osborne called it wrong on private sector employment

New figures show that the private sector isn't making up for public sector job losses.

New figures show that the private sector isn't making up for public sector job losses.{C}

In November 2010, George Osborne told the House of Commons that private sector job creation would "far outweigh" the job losses in the public sector. The Chancellor, an adherent of the theory of expansionary fiscal contraction, assumed that a bloated public sector was "crowding out" pirvate sector growth.

But today's employment figures tell a different story. Osborne's fiscal contraction has turned out to be, well, contractionary. In the last three months, 67,000 public sector jobs have been lost but just 5,000 private sector jobs have been created. The number of public sector jobs lost in the last year (276,000) now exceeds the number of private sector jobs created (262,000). As a result, unemployment has reached levels not seen for 17 years. There are now 2.64m people (8.3 per cent) out of work, including 1.03m young people. Youth unemployment is now 22 per cent, above the eurozone average of 21.4 per cent.

Over the course of this parliament, the Office for Budget Responsibility still expects private sector job creation to outweigh public sector job losses. By 2017, it forecasts that there will be 1.7 million more private sector jobs and 710,000 fewer public sector jobs. But given that the OBR has already had to raise its forecast for public sector job losses by 310,000, I wouldn't put too much faith in those figures. If the government wants to prevent unemployment hitting three million, it should call a halt to its job cuts now.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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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.