Jonathan Jones

Unemployment’s high, but at least it’s stopped rising

Unemployment's high, but at least it's stopped rising
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So, new jobs figures out today. Which do you want first: the bad news, or the kind-of-alright news? The bad news is that employment’s showing no signs of growth: the total number in work has been stuck at 29.1 million since it fell there in the summer. It’s a touch better than the trough of 28.8 million we hit at the end of 2009, but still half a million below where we were when the recession hit. And we’re showing no signs of getting there any time soon:

And the not-so-bad news? Unemployment’s slightly down on last month, which was slightly down on the month before. It’s not a big drop — well within the margin of error — and the number of unemployed still stands at 2.7 million, so this doesn’t exactly count as good news. But it’s certainly a welcome change from the uptick we’d seen in each of the previous seven months:

The same’s true of youth unemployment. It’s still staggeringly high — at just over 1 million 16-24 year-olds — but at least the last two months have seen no increase, after seven months where the figure rose by more than 10,000 every time. It’s tough to draw conclusions, especially when the numbers could be revised up or down, but maybe — just maybe — our period of rising unemployment is ending. Now the challenge is to reverse the trend and get employment growing.

The government hopes that private sector growth will accomplish this, and certainly private sector employment has been rising steadily for two years now. Unfortunately, so far it’s not been enough to outweigh the job losses in the public sector. Since the coalition took over, private sector employment has grown by 320,000, but the public sector figure has dropped by 350,000. With at least another 300,000 public sector losses to come by the next election, the government needs the private sector to pick up the pace.