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David Cameron sings the good jobs news, but can Labour deal with green shoots?

12 June 2013

6:00 PM

12 June 2013

6:00 PM

There was plenty for David Cameron to sing about at today’s PMQs when it came to the ONS’ latest labour market figures, and sing he did. He said:

‘First, it is worth announcing to the House what today’s unemployment figures show. They show that employment – the number of people in work in this country – is going up, that unemployment is going down, and that – I know the Labour party does not want to hear good news, but I think it is important that we hear it. The claimant count – the number of people claiming unemployment benefit – has fallen for the seventh month in a row. It is interesting that over the past year, while we have lost 100,000 jobs in the public sector, we have gained five times that amount in private sector employment.’

Unemployment fell by 5,000 between February and April 2013 to 2.51 million, 7.8 per cent of the workforce, the Office for National Statistics found, while the number of people in employment rose by 24,000 to 29.76 million, 71.5 per cent of the workforce, the highest since records began.

But there are a few bits of bad news that, away from PMQs, Labour has been exploiting. Liam Byrne has already highlighted the rise in long-term unemployment, saying:

‘The tiniest glimmer of light is to be welcomed but today’s figures confirm the awful truth that there’s been practically zero progress tackling unemployment since last summer. Pay-packets have continued to take an absolute hammering while the government is cutting tax credits. Long term unemployment is becoming more deep set and employers are reporting skills shortages and more part-time workers are saying they’re desperate for a full time job.’


The number of people unemployed for over a year was 898,000, up 11,000 from November 2012 to January 2013. And the number of people unemployed for over two years was 458,000, up 7,000.

What’s interesting from today’s statistics, though, is that the rise is largely down to an increase in the number of pensioners seeking work or delaying retirement. One million over-65s are now employed, and the level for this group rose 2.3 per cent, while the 16-64 age group saw its employment level rise by 0.1%.

Cumulative changes in employment Since April 2008 by age group

Today’s figures underline that Labour needs a strategy that doesn’t just rely on bad news. Cameron scored an easy win at PMQs today, and his soliloquy on the jobs figures contributed to that. If consumers are also starting to feel the benefits of green shoots, then it will become a great deal harder for Labour to cut through.

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Show comments
  • Mynydd

    So what has Mr Cameron got to sing about, nothing, when you look at the unemployment figures since he came to office: 2010 – 2.49m; 2011 – 2.47: 2012 – 2.65m; 2013 latest 2.51m. These figures show that unemployment has slightly increased during his term, leaving the question how much higher will it go?

  • nationalexistance

    If the economy is in such good shape England wont miss the revenue from North Sea oil when Scotland regains its independence.

  • andagain

    I might point out that most of the unemployment is in the North. The easiest way to reduce unemplyment is to have people move south for work,as in the 1930s.

    Of course, in the 1930s, they built houses for these people to move into. Not allowed to happen now. Clearly it is the fault of the unemployed for not being born in southern England.

  • CharlietheChump

    The theme “Labour needs a strategy” is not news, not new, not worth this post.

  • evad666

    Is Britain Working?
    Only in the South and in the North lots of Zero Hour Contracts.
    Get Britain back to work Vote UKIP.

    • Daniel Maris

      Yes, but in the South it’s working for people who come here from other countries, or come to live a wealthy lifestyle, enjoying the fleshpots of London. The fact that a Qatari millionnaire comes over here and stays in a hotel exclusively staffed by immigrants might inflate our bloated financial sector a little more but that’s about it. There is little real wealth being created for UK citizens.

      • evad666

        Let su be honest here London sucks the life out of the regions now the Banks encouraged (actually forced) manufacturing to move abroad.

  • Dogsnob

    Yeah, more plebs working for even less money. Immigration flow set steadily to ensure more of same.
    Meanwhile, high flyers still into double-digit annual rises. What’s not to like eh?

  • toco10

    The problem with Labour is they are profligate with taxpayers’ money and are led by workshy Red Ed who has never had a job in the real world.His Dad got him to where he is from his leafy and privileged Hampstead £ multi million home.I understand his wife earns rather more than the odd crust so poverty is something Red Ed has never ever experienced.

  • Chris lancashire

    Labour are looking even more out of touch when even the saner seniors like Byrne go scrabbling around for bad news at a time when the economy is steadily improving.
    There remains a long, long way to go and since Byrne mentioned it, working tax credits is probably the next unreformed area that needs to be tackled. Meanwhile, carping at the margins, having no economic plans at all and still refusing to acknowledge the overspending of the Brown-Balls era merely continues to undermine Labour’s credibility.

  • Mike Barnes

    The population has been rising, of course the total number of people in work is at a record high. Our total population is at a record high too!

    From Gavin Kelly in today’s Guardian

    “It’s not just that it glosses over the 2.5 million unemployed and 3 million under-employed. It’s also that cheery talk of “record numbers of jobs” ignores the 1.8 million increase in the adult population since the recession, so it greatly understates the true “employment gap”: nearly a further one million jobs are required simply to get back to the employment rate of 2008.”

  • HJ777

    The falling claimant count is, I suspect, largely a consequence of the rising proportion of the unemployed who are long term unemployed. Remember that JSA is means tested after the first 6 months and you generally don’t get it if you have working spouse or have savings, so many people fall out of the claimant count figures even though they are just as unemployed as they were when they were included in the figures.

    The only measure that has any credibility is the ILO figure. In reality, the unemployment figures are effectively flat because the monthly change is so small that it’s probably within the error margins. So it’s neither good news nor bad on unemployment. We’ve got through this deep recession better than might have been expected when it comes to unemployment (largely due to wage flexibility) but it will require a strong economic upturn to substantially reduce the figures.

    • Daniel Maris

      That seems a more sober analysis and more convincing than that of the tub-thumpers.

      The employment stats are becoming increasingly meaningless. I’d like to know:

      1. How many young people are being effectively subsidised by their parents either in unpaid internships or inbetween a succession of temporary and part time jobs?

      2. What is the unemployment rate for UK citizens?

      3. What government schemes are there that manage to get people off the count – how much money is going into those?

  • telemachus

    Cameron did not win

    There was a lot of noise and Labour won the visuals

    Liam Byrne rightly highlights the tragedy of long term unemployment which is a blight on the lives and families of those involved

    IDS would have it that they are work shy but the fact is that the coalition choked off the growth that would give the jobs to solve this

    No doubt the Makhnovists will wade in and tell us it is nothing to do with Government

    • anyfool

      IDS would have it that they are work shy
      If you are fully fit and have been unemployed for a year and more you are not just workshy you are a lazy parasite?.
      Can you not read, it says over 65`s employed has risen to a million plus, if the old can find jobs then younger people should walk into work.
      They are either leeches or their education is so abysmal that they are unemployable.
      So tele are they lazy or are they the victims of Labours pathetic education policy.

      • telemachus

        Oh dear
        I can see the IDS constituency now
        Just spout those words in Blaenau Gwent or West Dunbartonshire or Hartlepool and you will need a pair of calipers
        We are meant to be a caring society
        And the best way to care is to create jobs
        And the best way to create jobs is to create growth
        And the best way to create growth is to invest in infrastructure

        • alabenn


      • andagain

        if the old can find jobs

        If. Maybe they are just not leaving jobs. If people have stopped retiring at 65, the number of employed over-65s will certainly go up.