The number of people in work in the UK hit 29.6 million in August-October – the most ever — according to today’s figures from the Office for National Statistics. So despite GDP still languishing 3 per cent below pre-recession levels, employment has fully recovered, with half a million jobs created in the last year:
The rise in employment has been thanks to the private sector more than making up for the job cuts in the public sector. The numbers don’t quite back up David Cameron’s claim that there are 1 million more private sector jobs than when he took office — to get that he must either be using January-March 2010 as his starting point (despite not having become Prime Minister until May) or be including the 196,000 further education employees whom the ONS used to count as public sector workers but moved into the private sector total in June this year. Stripping those out and starting from April-June 2010, private sector employment has risen by 853,000 (3.7 per cent) — impressive, but not quite 1 million yet. Meanwhile, public sector employment has been cut by 357,000 (5.9 per cent) and is at its lowest level since 2003.
And unemployment continues to fall, down 82,000 (3.2 per cent) on the previous 3 months and 128,000 (4.8 per cent) since last year. And significantly, at 7.82 per cent, the unemployment rate is very slightly lower than it was at the general election (7.86 per cent) — though that’s well within the margin of error (+/– 0.3).
Youth unemployment — still far too high at 945,000 — has at least been heading in the right direction. It’s fallen by 80,000 (7.8 per cent) in the past 12 months.
But while today’s figures certainly count as ‘good news’, we should greet it with caution. Last week, the Office for Budget Responsibility forecast that the recent rise in employment won’t continue into 2013, and that unemployment will be back up to 2.7 million and 8.3 per cent by this time next year. So while the government is right to highlight the progress that has been made in recent months, Cameron should refrain from repeating his confident boast of PMQs a few weeks ago, that ‘the good news will keep on coming’. According to the OBR, it won’t.