Saturday, 18 October 2008

What new jobs?

We have all become accustomed to poor Gordon's tractor production statistics, so much so that few listen any more. Often the only time one of the standard forms of words he uses registers in our minds is when someone else uses it. This week I have heard two senior ministers say that we have record numbers in work and that a million jobs have been created since Labour came into power in 1997. Something in the dim recesses of what I laughably call my mind suggested that Gordon has said the same thing and indeed he has, over and over again.

Then I asked myself what it means because the convention during my lifetime has been to measure the health of employment by asking what percentage are unemployed not what number are employed. So I did a little rooting-around at the Office for National Statistics and found an interesting document, the latest Economic and Labour Market Review. This is the one which noted an increase in unemployment of 120,000 over the quarter to July 2008. Section 13C summarises employment and unemployment figures over the last two years, the latest month included is July 2008.

As we know, the unemployment figures are massaged downwards by a plethora of ruses. For example, receipt of any one of a wide variety of welfare payments leads to exclusion from the unemployment statistics, losing entitlement to certain benefits by not taking an offer of work transfers you from "unemployed" to "economically inactive", early retirement is not unemployment and part-time work counts as one job not half a job. What I find quite compelling is the overall picture. Trotting out numbers for those in employment tells us only one side of the story and we cannot draw any conclusions about the overall state of employment in the country unless the whole story appears. For so long as population is increasing the number of people employed must increase if we are to stand still. New jobs are only a net gain if they lead to a reduction in the percentage of those who want to work but cannot get a job.

Interestingly, the figures produced by the ONS show an increase of 500,000 jobs since July 2006 but no change to the percentage of the population in work, it was 60.2% in July 2006 and 60.2% in July 2008. Half a million new jobs over just two years have made no change whatsoever to the relative numbers in work.

This will not stop the Harmans and Hoons of this world parroting poor Gordon's meaningless statistics, but now I know that they are talking nonsense when previously it was just a presumption.


1 comment:

The Great Simpleton said...

The Tories used this same jobs created argument in the 80's and Labour were having none of it and focused on ILO defined unemployment.

Funny old world when Labour imitates Maggie