What is Ed Miliband going to ask David Cameron about at Prime Minister’s Questions today now that the latest employment figures show the biggest quarterly increase since records began, and the biggest quarterly fall in unemployment since 1997? Actually, there is quite a lot that he can talk about that means he can entirely avoid the subject – Nicky Morgan’s warning to the Tories about ‘hate’, Aidan Burley, the row between Number 10 and Home Office about stop-and-search and Syria – but the Prime Minister will make jolly well sure that he shoehorns it into any question that’s asked of him, even if it’s a backbench one about the welfare of horses in Cumbria.
Here are the figures. Unemployment fell by 167,000 between September and November to 2.32m (7.1%). The employment rate for September to November 2013 was 72.1%, up 0.5 percentage points from June to August 2013. Average earnings increased by 0.9% in the year to November, no change from the previous month.
At 7.1%, the unemployment rate is now just above the Bank of England’s 7% threshold for raising interest rates.
It goes without saying that the Prime Minister can use this to remind everyone about his long-term economic plan. Coming after the IMF’s improved growth forecast for the UK economy yesterday, these jobs figures will serve as another piece of evidence for David Cameron and George Osborne that they’ve moved on from their own ‘364 economists’ moment when the IMF’s Olivier Blanchard accused the Chancellor of ‘playing with fire’ with his current austerity plan. So it means that when Cameron does shoehorn the jobs stats into his answers, he can also point out that Ed Balls, who made much of the Blanchard comments at the time, called for the Chancellor to change course and was then proved wrong.