Five questions answered on… the fall in UK unemployment

Unemployment is at its lowest number for over a year. We answer five questions on the falling unemployment rates.

How much has unemployment fallen by?

Unemployment has fallen by 49,000 to 2.51 million in the three months to September. This has reduced the jobless rate from 7.9 per cent to 7.8 per cent.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) said almost all of this fall was due to a decline in youth unemployment.

How has this affected the long term unemployed?

It hasn’t actually. Those who are long term unemployed – for a year or over – has increased by 12,000 for the quarter to September 894,000.

While 43,000 people have been out of work for more than two years, up by 21,000.

How many people are currently working part-time only?

According to the ONS there are 8.1 million people in part-time employment, up by 49,000 and nearly a record high.

If unemployment figures have dropped, has the amount of people claiming unemployment benefits also fallen?

Oddly, no. The number of people claiming unemployment benefits has risen by 10,100 last month to 1.58m, which is the highest level since July and the biggest monthly rise since September last year.

In regards to this, Martin Beck at Capital Economics, told The Telegraph:

Indeed, the timelier claimant count measure of unemployment rose by 10,000 in September, while August's fall was revised to a small rise, which suggests that the labour market may be beginning to weaken as the Olympics effect fades.

What has the employment minister said about these latest figures?

Mark Hoban, the Employment Minister, told the BBC:

This is another good set of figures. We've seen the number of people in work increase by 100,000 and youth unemployment is below a million again.

Adding:

There are still some real challenges out there. We still need to tackle... long-term unemployment.

Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for Nridigital.com

Photo: Getty
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Theresa May's U-Turn may have just traded one problem for another

The problems of the policy have been moved, not eradicated. 

That didn’t take long. Theresa May has U-Turned on her plan to make people personally liable for the costs of social care until they have just £100,000 worth of assets, including property, left.

As the average home is valued at £317,000, in practice, that meant that most property owners would have to remortgage their house in order to pay for the cost of their social care. That upwards of 75 per cent of baby boomers – the largest group in the UK, both in terms of raw numbers and their higher tendency to vote – own their homes made the proposal politically toxic.

(The political pain is more acute when you remember that, on the whole, the properties owned by the elderly are worth more than those owned by the young. Why? Because most first-time buyers purchase small flats and most retirees are in large family homes.)

The proposal would have meant that while people who in old age fall foul of long-term degenerative illnesses like Alzheimers would in practice face an inheritance tax threshold of £100,000, people who die suddenly would face one of £1m, ten times higher than that paid by those requiring longer-term care. Small wonder the proposal was swiftly dubbed a “dementia tax”.

The Conservatives are now proposing “an absolute limit on the amount people have to pay for their care costs”. The actual amount is TBD, and will be the subject of a consultation should the Tories win the election. May went further, laying out the following guarantees:

“We are proposing the right funding model for social care.  We will make sure nobody has to sell their family home to pay for care.  We will make sure there’s an absolute limit on what people need to pay. And you will never have to go below £100,000 of your savings, so you will always have something to pass on to your family.”

There are a couple of problems here. The proposed policy already had a cap of sorts –on the amount you were allowed to have left over from meeting your own care costs, ie, under £100,000. Although the system – effectively an inheritance tax by lottery – displeased practically everyone and spooked elderly voters, it was at least progressive, in that the lottery was paid by people with assets above £100,000.

Under the new proposal, the lottery remains in place – if you die quickly or don’t require expensive social care, you get to keep all your assets, large or small – but the losers are the poorest pensioners. (Put simply, if there is a cap on costs at £25,000, then people with assets below that in value will see them swallowed up, but people with assets above that value will have them protected.)  That is compounded still further if home-owners are allowed to retain their homes.

So it’s still a dementia tax – it’s just a regressive dementia tax.

It also means that the Conservatives have traded going into the election’s final weeks facing accusations that they will force people to sell their own homes for going into the election facing questions over what a “reasonable” cap on care costs is, and you don’t have to be very imaginative to see how that could cause them trouble.

They’ve U-Turned alright, but they may simply have swerved away from one collision into another.  

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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