Wednesday’s Labour Market Statistics looked good – or rather they looked a little better than the run of bad figures for the last three years. And we welcome them – any improvement is to be welcomed, since every single number is a real person, with a real life. And it is real people who have been carrying the burden of this Coalition Government’s austerity programme for too long.
Unfortunately, as we’ve stressed before, even these apparently improving figures hide very real regional variations.
In our own Constituency of Leeds North West the number of those claiming Job Seekers’ Allowance is up by 12% year on the year to July; people claiming JSA for over a year has risen by 20% in that same period. There’s been no change in the number of 18-24 year olds claiming JSA for over 12 months, and in NW Leeds we’ve seen a shocking 113% rise in those over 25 who have been claiming JSA for over 2 years.
There’s a sobering local reality behind those headlines.
And alongside the headline statistics on employment there are a range of other figures which show just what a price ordinary people are paying.
Real wages are falling – wages increased by only 0.6% in the year to June, while the Retail Price Index went up by 3.3% – over five times the pace of wage rises. Real wages have fallen by 5.5% in the past three years.
Overall youth unemployment increased over the quarter – it now stand at nearly a million wasting lives.
Leeds North West is not the only constituency to have seen a growth in long-term unemployment. The number of people out of work for more than twelve months increased on the quarter to 909,000.
More than half of the long-term unemployed have been out of work for more than two years. 474,000 people have been unemployed for more than two years, its highest level since June 1997.
And underemployment continues to rise. There were 1.43 million part-time employees who could not find full-time jobs, an increase of 25,000 on the quarter. We’ve reported before on the desperate situation highlighted by zero-hours contracts.
And what are the Coalition doing?
Their Youth Contract is on course to miss its target by 92 per cent, and their flagship Work Programme has not hit a single one of its minimum performance standards
But they will just sit tight and hope for a weak, housing-boom fed pseudo-recovery which will enable them to claim success for their failed austerity policies.
Stephen Timms MP, Labour’s Shadow Employment Minister, responding to the statistics, said:
“the real story of the labour market is a living standards crisis with falling real wages, and millions working harder for less. David Cameron says he’s fixed the economy but for ordinary families things are getting harder not easier.
“The Government’s welfare reform has comprehensively failed at a time when youth unemployment is edging towards a million, and long-term unemployment is at its highest level in 17 years.
“Ministers should be taking urgent action both to help middle and low income families and to bring down long-term unemployment.”
Labour would offer a “Compulsory Jobs Guarantee to get anyone unemployed for more than two years into a paying job – one they would be required to take.”
Make no mistake about it – austerity hasn’t worked, isn’t working and the price the people of this country have paid for it has not been worth it.