With the full impact of the fiscal austerity measures yet to come, the fall in unemployment revealed in the latest ONS labour market release is probably a lull before the storm. Nonetheless, in the three months to July unemployment fell by 8,000 to 2.467 million, while the rate of unemployment – the number of people unemployed expressed as a percentage of those economically active – fell from 7.9% from 7.8%. But, within the ONS release we again saw an increase in the number of people who are long-term unemployed.
The number of people aged 16 or over who have been unemployed for at least 12 months stood at 797,000 in the three months to July. This represents an increase of 15,000 over the previous 3 months. While the pace of increase appears to have slowed – the number had risen by 100,000 in the three months to April – the pool of people who can be described as long-term unemployed is undoubtedly of much concern. To put this number into perspective, it means that of the 2.467 million people unemployed 32.3% have been so for at least a year. In effect, one-third of the pool of unemployed can now be thought of as long-term unemployed.
Of the long-term unemployed, 547,000 or 69% are male. This is the highest number of males described as long-term unemployed since the three months to May 1997 – the month when the Labour government of Tony Blair came to power. But, the historical context for female long-term unemployment is even bleaker. A further increase of 4,000 over the 3 months to July means that the number of females who are long-term unemployed has risen to 250,000. The last time long-term female unemployment was higher than this was in the three months to September 1995.
An obvious concern with the expectation that the total unemployment figure will grow in the not too distant future is that the number of long-term unemployed people will carry on growing. Of course, this not only has unfortunate implications for these individuals but for society and the economy more generally. Consequently, it raises some important and very difficult economic and social policy questions. One important economic question, for instance, is how we tackle the erosion of human capital as more and more individuals are divorced for longer and longer from the labour market. An erosion of human capital affects individuals and society not only in the present, but in the future too.
UK unemployment falls by 0.1 pct to 7.8 pct Associated Press (16/9/10)
Wasteland: Europe stalked by spectre of mass unemployment Independent, Alistair Dawber (16/9/10)
Job fears despite employment rise Telegraph, Angela Monaghan (16/9/10)
Part-time jobs fuel record rise in employment Express, Macer Hall (16/9/10)
UK unemployment falls to 2.47 million BBC News (15/9/10)
Latest on employment and unemployment Office for National Statistics (15/9/10)
Labour Market Statistics, September 2010 Office for National Statistics (15/9/10)
Labour market data Office for National Statistics
For macroeconomic data for EU countries and other OECD countries, such as the USA, Canada, Japan, Australia and Korea, see:
AMECO online European Commission
- If the overall number of unemployed people is falling why is the number of long-term unemployed rising?
- The current unemployment rate is 7.8%. But, what do we mean by the unemployment rate?
- Draw up a list of the problems that you think arise out of long-term unemployment.
- Use your list to draw up a series of potential policies to tackle these problems.
- Why do some economists think the current fall in unemployment is a ‘lull before the storm’? What impact might this have on the number of people long-term unemployed?