Today's headline figures on unemployment are good news: a 65,000 fall in the number of unemployed people to 2.58 million in the three months to May and a 0.2 per cent fall in the unemployment rate to 8.1 per cent of the economically active population.
The focus is now growing on the Work Programme to deliver on its promises. Liam Byrne's response to the figures was that they were 'fresh evidence that the beleaguered Work Programme isn't working'. But as Fraser blogged last week, it's rather too early to tell either way, actually.
The CBI says that a 6,100 rise in the number of people claiming Jobseekers Allowance, and 441,000 people who have been unemployed for over two years is evidence that the Work Programme must deliver. It has published a report today, called Work in Progress, which makes a number of recommendations on how to refine the programme. These include improving the referrals process for those furthest from the labour market to ensure they move onto the work programme as soon as they are capable of looking for a job, encouraging self-employment, joining the programme up with services for ex-offenders and encouraging more employers to work with the programme.The report points out that the economic and labour market environment is much tougher than it was when Work Programme providers compiled their bids in March 2011. It also says: 'Fewer of the individuals deemed 'hardest to help' to find employment have been referred onto the scheme than expected, meaning some jobseekers are not getting the support they need to find work. This is also having a negative impact on provider delivery and particularly supply chains.'
We'll get the first official statistics on Work Programme delivery in the autumn, and it's another aspect of the coalition's welfare reforms that backbenchers are desperate to be able to wave triumphantly at their constituents when it comes to 2015.