Good news on unemployment - but will it last?

Unemployment has fallen to 7.9 per cent - but it's expected to rise next year.

Ahead of the first PMQs since the conference season, the latest employment figures offer a much-needed boost for David Cameron. Unemployment fell from 8.1 per cent to 7.9 per cent (or from 2.58m to 2.53m) over the last quarter, the lowest level since May 2011, while employment rose by 212,000 to 29.6 million, the highest level ever recorded. Similarly encouraging is the news that, for the first time in a year, youth unemployment is back below a million - it fell 62,000 to 957,000 (or from 21.8 per cent to 20.5 per cent) .

However, it's worth noting that 59 per cent (125,000) of the 212,000 new jobs created are part-time and that London was responsible for nearly half (101,000) of the rise in employment (a total of 1.4 million people are working part-time because they can't find full-time jobs), suggesting that the labour market received a temporary boost from the Olympics. The jobless rate rose by 0.2 per cent in Scotland and by 1.2 per cent in Northern Ireland. In addition, 6 per cent (13,000) of the 212,000 jobs are on "government supported training and employment programmes". In the last year, the number of people on these programs has risen by 89 per cent.

In addition, as I've pointed out before, unemployment is expected to rise next year to 2.7m owing to further spending cuts, a lack of growth, and rising productivity. For now, however, Cameron can promote a narrative of recovery.

The fall in unemployment is a boost for David Cameron ahead of today's Prime Minister's Questions. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.