Five questions answered on the 5,000 drop in UK unemployment

“The jobs market appears to be moderately improving".

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that UK unemployment has fallen by 5,000. We answer five questions on this recent drop in UK joblessness.

How many people are now currently unemployed?

According to ONS, the jobless rate has fallen by 5,000 to 2.5 million with the number of people claiming jobseekers allowance falling by 8,600 in May to 1.5 million

How many people are now currently in work?

After a rise of 24,000 in recent months a record 29.7 million people are currently in work. This means that the UK employment rate is now 71.5 per cent, while 7.8 per cent of the population is jobless.

What about youth unemployment?

Unemployment for those aged between 16 and 24 has also fallen from 43,000 to 950,000. However, those who are long term unemployed – those looking for work for longer than a year – was up by 11,000 to almost 900,000.

Women also came out badly in the statistics with the number of women out of a job rising by 7,000 to 1.09m.

What about average earnings and inflation?

Average earnings in April rose by 3.3 per cent, mostly due to companies paying out bonuses to workers a month later this year than last. This figure is a 1.3 per cent jump in total earnings from a year earlier.

However, this rise is dampened by the 2.4 per cent rise in consumer prices in the year to April.

What are the experts saying about these figures?

Peter Dixon, an economist at Commerzbank AG in London told Bloomberg:

“The jobs market appears to be moderately improving.

 “We may see a pickup in output without a further increase in employment.”

Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for

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David Cameron's starter homes: poor policy, but good politics

David Cameron's electoral coalition of buy-to-let retirees and dual-earner couples remains intact: for now.

The only working age demographic to do better under the Coalition was dual-earner couples – without children. They were the main beneficiaries of the threshold raise – which may “take the poorest out of tax” in theory but in practice hands a sizeable tax cut to peope earning above average. They will reap the fruits of the government’s Help to Buy ISAs. And, not having children, they were insulated from cuts to child tax credits, reductions in public services, and the rising cost of childcare. (Childcare costs now mean a couple on average income, working full-time, find that the extra earnings from both remaining in work are wiped out by the costs of care)

And they were a vital part of the Conservatives’ electoral coalition. Voters who lived in new housing estates on the edges of seats like Amber Valley and throughout the Midlands overwhelmingly backed the Conservatives.

That’s the political backdrop to David Cameron’s announcement later today to change planning to unlock new housing units – what the governmen dubs “Starter Homes”. The government will redefine “affordable housing”  to up t o£250,000 outside of London and £450,000 and under within it. and reduce the ability of councils to insist on certain types of buildings. He’ll describe it as part of the drive to make the next ten years “the turnaround decade”: years in which people will feel more in control of their lives, more affluent, and more successful.

The end result: a proliferation of one and two bedroom flats and homes, available to the highly-paid: and to that vital component of Cameron’s coalition: the dual-earner, childless couple, particularly in the Midlands, where the housing market is not yet in a state of crisis. (And it's not bad for that other pillar of the Conservative majority: well-heeled pensioners using buy-to-let as a pension plan.)

The policy may well be junk-rated but the politics has a triple A rating: along with affluent retirees, if the Conservatives can keep those dual-earner couples in the Tory column, they will remain in office for the forseeable future.

Just one problem, really: what happens if they decide they want room for kids? Cameron’s “turnaround decade” might end up in entirely the wrong sort of turnaround for Conservative prospects.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.