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Lagging no more?

Stephanie Flanders | 11:30 UK time, Wednesday, 16 December 2009

It looks like good news - if only I knew for sure.

The labour market is usually the last to recover from a recession - but right now it's almost leading the rest of the economy out.

A slight fall in the claimant count in November, the first since February 2008; the smallest quarterly rise in the broader measure of unemployment since spring 2008; a 53,000 rise in the number of people in work.

These are not figures you expect to see, in an economy still not formally out of recession.

Commuters

I would love to say this is yet more evidence that the economy is growing after all - and/or that the UK labour market is now so flexible that companies can slash production and hours while keeping many more of their employees in work.

Both of those will be part of the explanation for these surprising figures. But I fear they cannot be the whole story.

For starters, if we say that flexibility has helped us see only a 2% fall in employment - following a roughly 6% fall in output - we have to explain why exactly the opposite has happened in the super-flexible USA.

America has had one of the less bad recessions of the G7 countries, with a peak to trough fall in national output of 3.7%, yet their unemployment rate has roughly doubled, and total employment has fallen by more than 4%.

Germany, on the other hand - that resolutely unflexible, non-Anglo-Saxon economy - has seen an even smaller rise in unemployment than we have, following an even tougher recession.

Their national output has fallen by more than 6%, while employment has fallen, well, it hasn't really fallen at all.

Far from becoming more American in this recession, the argument would have to be that British employers have become more German, holding on to their skilled workforces much more tightly than they ever have before, but cutting hours to reduce the impact on the bottom line.

That's definitely happened in Germany: even though employment has barely budged, Simon Kirby at the NIESR calculates that average hours in Germany have fallen sharply, by more than 4%.

But we have a good explanation for that - the government's short-time working scheme, which has produced a dramatic rise in the number of Germans working on short-time contracts.

There's no similar scheme in the UK - most of the government's efforts have been focussed on the youth end of the labour market.

But we do hear a lot about people working on shorter contracts or part-time (the number who say they are working part-time because they can't find anything else rose again this month). Is that why unemployment has not risen further?

Well, it's part of it. But Kirby thinks that average hours have only fallen by around 1% in the UK since the start of the recession.

So labour inputs, overall (taking into account what's happened to employment and to hours) have fallen about 3% - compared to a 4% decline in Germany and a nearly 12% fall in the US.

There's been a wage response too. As I've mentioned before, wages have held steady, and even fallen, in some cases, in this recession - whereas in the past they carried on going up.

That's helped employers keep workers on, even as it has squeezed household incomes and apparently forced many women back into part-time work.

But that effort to keep job losses down has affected the bottom line: unit labour costs are going up, and productivity has collapsed. (Inevitably, if employment falls by much less than output, output per worker is going to go through the floor.)

This could all work out well. If we see a strong recovery next year and employers are able to make up the ground they've lost - indeed, a strong recovery would reward their decision to hold on to their staff. But, as we know, a strong recovery is not what most economists expect.

However welcome it may be in the short term, there has to be a danger that the smaller than expected rise in unemployment is storing up trouble for the future.

Either companies will find they have to lay off staff after all - and the expected rise in the jobless numbers will lag even further behind the recovery than it usually does.

Or they may struggle against competitors - not least, American ones, who've shed labour so aggressively that productivity has even gone up. That, in turn, could make a slow recovery even slower.

It's one of those times that economists rain on everyone's parade, and at Christmas time, too. Sorry about that. But remember - if we get that strong recovery, this might all be good news after all.

UPDATE, 14:35: Just to add a bit of content to what I said about earnings taking some of the strain: today's November figures show public sector earnings growing by 2.8% in the past 12 months.

Public sector employment also rose, another factor propping up the figures. But private sector earnings (excluding bonuses) grew by 1.4% in the year to October down from 1.7% in November, and a new low.

As Graham Turner of GFC Economics has pointed out, there are five sectors where that measure of earnings growth has actually turned negative, including construction, textiles, and, yes, financial services. His chart is worth a lot of words on the subject.

Graph showing UK average earnings, excluding bonuses

Incidentally, some of you have suggested that onerous redundancy procedures are also part of the story. You may be right.

I guess the question would be whether it has discouraged lay-offs - as in comment three - or simply delayed them. The first sounds a bit Germanic, and possibly not such a bad thing if - that big if again - we have a strong recovery. But if they've simply been delayed, that sounds like another reason to expect the growth in the jobless to pick up again next year.

Comments

Page 1 of 4

  • Comment number 1.

    I was "employed" about an hour ago in my local library - rejecting the way too many tomes by the presenters of "Top Gear" and gazing in sympathy at some gentlemen library user viewing Nicholas Robinson and Andrew Neil on one of the Internet links - The Politics Show was it? No offence gentleman but the words -"get a life" were not too far from my thoughts and directed to fellow library occupant.
    But I looked up again and there was another person in that recorded, studio based, programme.
    Yes, Ms Flanders. THAT edition!
    I made a note to myself to look it up on the BBC iPlayer and fast forward the bits where Andrew and Nicholas are involved. Said gentleman in library - my apologies. Time well spent in my view. And definitely GOOD NEWS!

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    The holding on too a skilled workforce and reducing hours/pay is also an attempt to avoid grasping the thorny nettle of redundancey pay, I should know i've been doing it with a workforce of 25 all year, but the way it looks at the moment that will all change come Q1 2010.

  • Comment number 4.

    Stephanie I imagine the reason that unemployment hasn't risen as much as some people thought could be either of the following.

    1) In the past boom companies didn't take on additional staff they just worked the current ones they had harder so that 10 people were doing the jobs of 12. Obviously staff were only being paid the salaries of 10 rather than the 12.

    When the economy turned down equilibrium was reached and now with even more of a downturn the companies have rather than laying off staff have cut hours. There are many examples of companies in the real world having done this with some shutdowns extended and flexible working introduced amongst other means.

    Now 10 staff are doing the job that 8 could do but are only working and being paid 70% of the previous hours and salary.

    This current scenario also allows employers to either

    a) push through no pay rises or bonuses this year and/or
    b) in many cases even force through wage cuts.

    These will mean that when the economy does turn the split of income between cpaital and labour will have been tilted in the favour of capital.

    2) The figures could of course be "massaged" to conveniently stay below 2.5 million for year end. This wouldn't be the first set of figures which are subsequently put back up later.

    Cynical, moi?

  • Comment number 5.

    A microsoft engineer of 12 years standing I've been out of work for over a year since losing my job with an international blue chip IT services company in October 2008. The company simply outsourced hundreds of specialist IT jobs to their offices in India.
    Many of the agencies I've rung in response to job adverts since the banking crisis have told me they've had 300-400 people applying for every position. Some adverts for highly specialised/rare skills roles they'd struggle to fill even state "do not ring due to the number of applicants".
    I was pretty horrified, then, to read that "Almost half of the 30,000 foreign IT workers who last year entered the UK on intra company transfers came from just seven companies headquartered in India... Released under freedom of information rules, the figures show that most Indian ICTs were for entry or mid-level IT roles, for which the UK has no shortage of skills for." [http://www.contractoruk.com/news/004671.html]
    What re the government playing at? Apart from fiddling figures that is - there may be "only" 2.5 million unemployed but there are 8 million economically inactive.

  • Comment number 6.

    inbreda: it doesn't sound like great news the way Stephanie's telling it - more of a warning of worse to come.

  • Comment number 7.

    In response to "inbreda". Firstly - in what respect do you think this is a "positive" article. Stephanie takes figures - important figures out today and that are featured in many news sources - that would generally be seen in a positive manner and actually shows that things may not be so rosy in the medium term if the fact that output per hour worked has fallen more here than elsewhere means that we'll be stuck with unemployment for longer. Essentially, unemployment rises by less but then doesn't fall because we have spare capacity left. This is essentially interpreting "positive" figures in a negative - but plausible and interesting - manner. Did you actually read the article?

    And the "labour market" figures aren't isolated "good figures". October saw the best retail figures for years, we've had PMI's at pretty decent levels for several months now, despite the recession being worse than thought, borrowing is only a little above where we thought it would be. Britain is still in for a difficult decade, paying down a large increase in structural borrowing. But there are good news stories out there and they should be published.

    I think its more likely you who are politically motivated with your constant negativity. Stephanie does a Sterling job and asks the right questions - and isn't afraid to either compliment or criticise the government. We need that kind of honest reporting more.

  • Comment number 8.

    Might the fall in claimants have something to do with middle-class professional unemployment? The JSA upper limit for savings is £16,000. One look at the local job centre, one interrogation about their job seeking activity and the news that they wont actually get any benefit because of their savings and many will never return.

  • Comment number 9.


    Is it worth looking at the numbers of people on Government schemes who do not fall within the unemployment/benefit count statistics?





  • Comment number 10.

    Perhaps UK emnployers realise that despite the government's myriad youth training and unemployment suppression schemes, employees with really useful skills are in very short supply, and once lost are very difficult to find again (try finding an experienced electronics engineer aged under 50, for example).

    The American employment practice (treating employees as essentially identical and unimportant resources that can be pulled at will from a limitless supply at zero cost) has always failed in the UK - witness the failure of most large US-run technology companies here and the rise of German and Japanese companies who treat employees differently.

    Perhaps it works in the USA. Or perhaps the trade barriers, depreciating currency, and immigration practises simply compensated for its deficiencies there too.

  • Comment number 11.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 12.

    First mistake you're making here is believing this Governments figures! If this lot told me night followed day I'd go outside and check. How long can claimants claim Job Seekers Allowance for? I believe this is the benefit that the unemployment figures are based on? Assuming it's six months, how are those that claimed for six months but moved onto "other benefits" counted? Whatever the figure this government gives, you can bet it's a least double. Is their figure based on those "looking for work"? Because let's face it they have created such a benefits culture that at least 4 million are not interested in working ever. It's just have more kids, get more benefits, get a bigger house etc

  • Comment number 13.

    1. Many have not lost jobs, but have had to go part time.
    2. Many, like myself, are not on JSA; one in three over 50s are "economically inactive", but NOT counted as unemployed.
    3. The real figure for unemployed is more like 7 million.

  • Comment number 14.

    I'm also not too sure that these figures are anywhere near the true situation that exists. I don't think the BBC is digging very deep and it leaves me wondering why.

    For example I know of someone who was recently made redundant and they suggested he go onto 'pension credits' - even though he is below pensionable age. I don't fully understand how this works but I suspect there are a lot 50-60 year olds in this situation and not reflected in these Gov figures. I guess there are also all those teenager whom we are bribing to stay on at 6th form/college - £30/week. I and the many of the people I speak to think this Gov is spending a lot of tax payers money keeping the unemployment figures down just as they are spending a lot of tax payers money to keep the housing bubble inflated. It doesn't seem rocket science to work this out.

  • Comment number 15.

    I know of companies who in the good times paid bonuses but kept annual pay rises to no more than 3% or 4%. Since the recession began no bonuses have been paid, and salary increases have been put on hold. In practice this equates to more than a 10% pay cut, but the employees understand that a bonus is just that: it only happens in the good years. As a result, redundancies have been kept down, and jobs protected.

    Bottom line profits have been reduced by the recession, but everyone including shareholders expected that to happen. If anything, corporate profitability has actually held up better than expected. Many blue chip companies have managed to reduce their corporate debt, and the equities markets have supported rights issues.

    It is unlikely that UK corporate profitability will grow strongly in 2010 (although those companies with markets overseas are expected to perform better), which means tax receipts will remain at their current reduced level. With the British government spending more than it earns, the challenge ahead is whether the government can control its own finances, while trying to avoid a double dip recesssion (assuming the UK does eventually exit the recession).

  • Comment number 16.

    #5 ArnoldThePenguin

    I'm sorry to hear you've been out of work. As you rightly say there are no shortage of UK staff, just a shortage of staff at a price employers want to pay. So they lean on the government to allow cheaper foreign staff to come to the UK.

    I've worked in the computer industry since 1973 and I'd suggest you set up your own business supplying local small companies with support and consultancy services (Microsoft Small Business Server is a good way to go and your MCSE will stand you in good stead). Microsoft although muchly maligned have some very good partner programmes that let you get access to all their products at an excellent price.

    For the record we are now selling software we have developed to India (admittedly so they can fulfill UK contracts) but it's at least a start.

    Good luck.

  • Comment number 17.

    I agree with various other posters that while there has been a drop in the number of claimants, the total number of unemployed is still steadily growing. The savings limit for JSA excludes many; and you don't qualify for JSA if your partner's earnings are over a certain threshold. There are millions who aren't counted.

    I'd like to hear the figures for those "out of work and not claiming benefits" in addition to the customary "out of work and claiming benefits".


  • Comment number 18.

    There are several reasons why the unemployment rate is not rising as in previous recessions.

    1. People are opting to take part time work when they can’t find full time work. My daughter has.

    2. Work forces are being retained, even though the work is not present. I’m currently employing twelve people to do the work of six. They worked hard for me during the good times and I’m trying to do right by them during the bad times, though I am reaching the point where I can’t maintain this position.

    3. The inability of many self employed people to claim unemployment.

    4. The insane month by month increase in the public sector workforce throughout this recession.

    I am desperately trying to see a happy outcome from all of this.

  • Comment number 19.

    The other hidden factor is the rise in "seasonal labour" that always takes place in November as retail companies and delivery companies take on extra temporary staff to cope with the Christmas spending binge. The figures to take notice of will those in February when we know how many have been retained or released.

  • Comment number 20.

    A further point on these misguided Government spun figures. I understand that 16 & 17 year olds (i.e last summers school leavers) can't claim JSA until they're 18?

  • Comment number 21.

    Stephanie

    In September 2005 you did an item on Mr Brown's "UK Economic Miracle." Among other things you reported:

    "What is left of the miracle economy, if you strip out the cheap imports and the consumer spending? What is left is a lot of public spending. The only part of the economy that has grown faster than spending by all of us the past few years has been spending by the government.

    In the north-east, one recent estimate puts the public sector of the economy at close to 60%. That's roughly what it was in Hungary before the Berlin Wall came down.

    Gordon Brown has certainly left his mark on the area, and put a lot of people in work who might otherwise have been unemployed. The number of private sector jobs in the region has shrunk since 2001. The public sector workforce has grown by around a fifth."

    I think that if you look at public sector employment in the North, Scotland and other regions where Labour has its main support bases, you will find a similar story. The government cannot afford to introduce cost cutting before the election, because that would "condense" the vapour that is sham employment. Condensation will happen next year, and become a flood as the Conservatives balance the books. They will be called heartless and accused of bashing the working classes.

    Meanwhile the country has borrowed and borrowed to keep up this pretense of busy-ness. Mr Brown believes that pretend jobs help to fuel demand that helps to create other jobs. He doesn't realise that the KIND of job is important. He probably still believes that Hungary in the seventies/eighties was a model society for us to copy. That's why he is caricatured as a Stalin-figure.

    Still, let's be positive. Now that he's fixed the economy here, Mr Brown is free to spend a few days in Copenhagen solving the climate problem.

  • Comment number 22.

    The 53,000 more in work will be immigrants.

    There will be no relief if and when more jobs are created because, under this government, they will be filled by immigrants. In the 60s the UK population was just over 50 million. Today it is 65 million and rising rapidly. Yet, there has been a 20% increase in jobs and increasing unemployment. Therefore, this government immigration programme has created mass unemployment and will continue to do so.

    I have been out of work since April and I have ample proof that the unemployment situation is getting worse and worse and worse.

  • Comment number 23.

    If only the government's figures could be taken as other than inaccurate. There seems to be an infinite number of ways of deciding who is or what constitutes being unemployed. It seems, though how accurate these figure are I have no way of knowing, that there are approaching 8 million people who are "inactive" whatever this means. Are they sick, lazy, eccentric millionaires, genuine job seekers who have been unfortunate enough to have lost their job, or do they just choose not to do anything. Do we count the thousands of inactive people living in luxury in our prisons, bail hostels, immigrant transit camps, and those being held pending deportation. However the figures are produced, with this government's attitude to integrity and truth , it is almost certain that the figures are inaccurate. Any measure of the country's economic condition based on these or in fact any figures issued by the government is extremely likely to be flawed.

  • Comment number 24.

    I don't think it can reasonably be called good news just because the rise in the jobless count has slowed. Remember that the jobless count is still rising. That doesn't sound to me that we're being led out of a recession.

    Plus, as others have noted above, how much do we really trust the figures? Jobless figures vary wildly depending on how you count them.

  • Comment number 25.

    Businesses expect a recovery at some point and fear they won't have the skills in their workforce to sustain it so they don't lay people off. They stop recruiting, cancel overtime and introduce short-time working. The ones that are doing a bit better freeze wages and cut back on the perks. This is going on all over in the hope of some sort of an improvement. This helps those in work but is of no use to those out of work.

    There is a lot of cheap money sloshing around at the moment due to QE which is sustaining overall demand levels within the economy. What will happen to unemployment when this money has to be drained off by higher interest rates? This is the big question.

    The entire strategy of the government has been based on the principle that a recovery of some sort has to follow on from the rescue of the banks and QE. Not a bad idea, but quite simplistic.

    Sadly, I think the damage sustained by the economy is so fundamental that any recovery will be slow, marginal and very lengthy. There is no confidence out there. Now it seems the extraordinary measures have ended but long before any sign of recovery, we may well start to see an increase in business closures and unemployment in the New Year.

    Then on top of that there is the conundrum of public sector cuts which are starting to happen. We could end up with public sector cuts, interest rates going to the heavens and a further collapse in demand.

    As I said there is no confidence out there and we won't see that return for at least another two to three years.

  • Comment number 26.

    I wonder whether the cash-flow lifeboats given to companies both by government ( allowing the deferring of payment of tax for example), the MPC cutting base rate to 0.5% and an unusual level of forbearance by banks to avoid enforcing debts provided interest is serviced - has kept a proportion of SMEs afloat when otherwise they might have gone to the wall with their employees.Also, some SMEs have used private capital wealth to mortgage working capital. Inevitably the benign environment will unwind and the balance sheet could tip the wrong way.The BoE doesnt seem confident of a growth surge in the immediate future.

  • Comment number 27.

    Could it be because much of the fall in 'output' is actually a fall in the fictitious capital 'produced' by the City?

    That is, a fall in asset prices from their peak, rather than a big fall in what is actually produced in the real economy.

  • Comment number 28.

    #23 Kaybraes

    You are absolutely right.

    In the last recession, I had to borrow against my credit cards so I could pay staff. Many people I knew who ran their own companies which sadly went under borrowed against their houses to keep themselves afloat until they could come up with an alternative means of earning an income.

    The Job Centres and the dole etc are pretty much useless for people in this situation who therefore have to fall back on their own resources and thus do not appear in any goverment statistics.

  • Comment number 29.

    I take it all back Stephanie, you are damned if you doom and you are damned if you don't!
    But at least a bit of equivocal news is better than outright bad news.....and funny that those who are out on the right do like bad news.
    I wonder how they will spin it if the Tories get elected.....all will be blamed on the previous government no doubt.
    Yesterday I spoke to a pharmacist who has opened 5 new branches in the past year.....there are actually more and more people just like him, taking advantage of new opportunities.....Tesco are opening up new branches everywhere,Marks and Spenser's garage stores are choc-a-bloc.
    The recession has swept away a lot of deadwood.
    GPs are starting to take on new partners rather than employing salaried doctors......which is a mixed story but good news for many.
    Merchant and investment banks are again recruiting and who knows , maybe all this outsourcing is looking a bit noughties.
    And I have heard that the boiler scheme is going to do to GCH what scrappage did for cars.
    Students on industrial placements are competing and offering their services for free.
    Building sites abandoned last year are being opened up again as the land price has fallen and opportunites have arisen to acquire sites with planning permission already obtained.
    Reasonably priced office space is widely available for new ventures and shops are also more keenly priced.
    Planning criteria are easing.
    Yes these are signs of recession but they are also signs that there are lots of opportunities for the brave.
    It has been a long hard year.
    We deserve a break.

  • Comment number 30.

    Thanks for covering this.
    Too little has been said on the realities of employment/unemployment and we need more digging to get to the bottom of the figures.

    I am somewhat sceptical about the numbers. #8rwolff and #9terryno2 both make valid points. I also think that the numbers have been clearly ameliorated by the transfer of many youngsters from potentially unemployed, to the education sector (this may turn out to be a good thing if the skills they acquire during their extended education are appropriate... not sure if that is happening)

    I'm also concerned about the length of time people are unemployed. Those who lost their jobs early are finding it difficult to break back in, even when job adverts are up. Big G does have some employer reward schemes for taking on the long term unemployed, but these only attract employers for jobs lower down the scale. Where a high specific skill level is required then the payment is not enough to ameliorate the risk of taking on somebody who is long term unemployed.

    Contining the local saga.
    Four of the people I know who are over 6 months oow no longer claim. They've been declared rich with savings exceeding £16k, and so are entitled to nowt - why bother signing on to get an NI stamp when you are in your fifties and got most of what you need stamp-wise.

    Another's not rich, but cos partner works F/T they are not entitled to owt, so they don't bother to claim either

    Another is working part time in a bar.... got on the bike, well done, but continues to seek employment that more closely matches technology skill set. So again, not a claimant, but seriously underemployed.

    Two have got their old jobs back, relocated 90 & 120 miles away, and at about 10% less renumeration. Guess what they are doing at lunchtime?

    Three have had their hours reduced by about 10%. One of them is purely overtime loss, but the other two are essentially 9 day fortnights

    Many of the 'casual' labour roles through staffing agencies are on reduced hours and hourly rates are down. Gossip here suggests that the number of non-UK people in this area has fallen significantly; I don't have any facts.

    Few of the sole traders I work with are doing much over 60%.
    New starts are definitely on the up. The rise in house prices has kick-started this.

    I don't think unemployment will get much worse. Several areas of the economy are beginning to pick up. There will be many more who will lose their jobs in the next 6 months, but this will be more or less matched by new employment elsewhere. Definitely those who have lost their jobs will find it hard to get the same pay for the same type of job. The residence time unemployed will fall - you'll get back into work quicker.

    However, as per normal, certain areas of the country will not pick up quickly unless a lot is pumped into the local economy. I see no indication of such intent in any waffle from Big G.

  • Comment number 31.

    Interesting article. I think the *true* level of unemployment is much higher. Someone quoted a figure of 7 to 8 million that is probably more like it. A lot of people realize straight away that job seekers allowance is a pittance and the real money to be made is in incapacity benefit. IB is easy to get, just tell your doctor you're depressed - it's difficult to prove otherwise! For reasons such as these I think we need to move away from government "unemployment figures", which aren't to be trusted, and look at the percentage of the population that does not contribute.

    I think there's another factor to take into account. A lot of migrants from Eastern Europe will have returned home with the decline of the pound against the Euro, and also the fact that work in areas like construction has more or less dried up. These people will suddenly disappear from the economy, but still represent lost work. Note that if the economy picks up again these migrants will be sucked back in. I believe this process needs to be taken into account as it is distorting the current situation.

  • Comment number 32.

    Just a basic qualification in Home Economics should be enough for this issue. We don't have enough of a manufacturing base to suffer as other countries such as Germany. What we have is a service economy with billions pumped into the economy that it could take decades to even get back to parity, if that. Our public sector national debt has increased to something like £40k+ per household, which in real terms is about double that due to the pension effect, with no real manufacturing base to help alleviate that problem in the future. We have paid an enormous price for such minor statistical anomalies, come back in 5 or 10 years time and see the true cost of that anomaly.

  • Comment number 33.

    Look at the pound today v the Euro!

  • Comment number 34.

    Talk about trying to make bad news out of good. Is the national mood so bad that even good news gets a bad press? The truth is that things are much better out there than the commentators are prepared to admit. I guess it is the result of having been so badly mauled by the financial crisis they do not want to be caught out again.

  • Comment number 35.

    I would have thought that the reason why unemployment figures have moved so little is because of the numbers of people employed in the public sector who are sheltered from the recession. The size of the public sector is nearly a million people larger than than the last recession and while some have lost their jobs at the fringes, the numbers are very small. The full impact of the recession on the public sector is being masked by record borrowing to fund current public sector expenditure which includes salaries of course. When public bodies have to put their financial houses in order over the next two years (which surviving private sector businesses have already done)the full impact on unemployment will be shown. One could be cynical and say that this is politically motivated to protect the electoral advantage of the governing party which makes the decisions on borrowings and employment levels.

  • Comment number 36.

    One of the reasons why un-employment is higher in the U.K. than in the rest of Europe is that jobs in the U.K. are 'disposable'. This means that the stringent employment laws in many parts of Europe make it difficult (if not impossible) to make someone redundant. Often companies have to keep employing people even if they have no work. If they do remove staff then the penalities to the company can be high.

  • Comment number 37.

    Whether the UK economy is growing? - that is the question.
    Just a while ago, you were speculating that the construction industry had reported to be much busier than the ONS had forecast, and suggesting that maybe the ONS estimated GDP decline for July-September quarter was too low? Suppose your observation last month was correct after all? Suppose too that the VAT cut, the benefits increases, Q. Easing and the bringing forward of public projects are truly all working as predicted last Spring?
    Maybe the underlying trends are nothing like as bad as the ONS forecast? Perhaps the timely and decisive interventions of government and Bank of England are working as economic prescriptions predicted after all?
    Maybe there's been too much wishful scare-mongering elsewhere. Maybe some harsh words from political commentators will have to be eaten?
    And maybe the more benign economic outlook will bring bank profits up and their tax payments back to normal.
    Just what would that do to the so-called debt forecasts and to the political landscape?


  • Comment number 38.

    Stephanie,

    what's with the subliminal numbers 5, 8 and 10 on the photo ?

  • Comment number 39.

    #36 Eurosider is mistaken. UK unemployment remains well below the European average and that of France, Germany, Italy and Spain (the other 4 large economies). They each have much higher long-term & youth unemployment too.
    The proportion of our working age population that's in paid employment is the highest - except only for Denmark.
    Moreover, only the UK has completed, and acted upon, stringent stress tests for all UK banks. Other countries have not done such tests and may be hiding all sorts of nasties yet to emerge.
    There's no need to be negative. There are good reasons to be cheerful.

  • Comment number 40.

    From some of the posts on here, its good to see that the political spin departments have been doing their bit by recruiting.

  • Comment number 41.

    When we're all unemployed there won't be any more rises in unemployment - but it would hardly be a positive outcome. The fact that the level of rises in unemployment is decreasing says absolutely nothing. It doesn't imply anything is getting better.

    How flexible a countries labour market is has been related to how much they emersed themselves in the credit bubble. And that is what is affecting employment rates now. In relative terms, stoical countries like france and germany, with unionised inflexible workforces and a distrust of credit continued in the old vein - making stuff and staying out of debt. US/UK ruined their manufacturing industry, borrowed to the hilt, and thought they were clever by creating a service (banking industry - which quite predictably turned out to be nothing more than a ponzi scheme to rip off taxpayers

  • Comment number 42.

    I've been looking for full-time work for well over a year now and have been completely unsuccessful, even with (no offense meant to anyone in these areas of employment) call centres and cleaning jobs for example. I'm lucky that I have a part-time job in customer service so there's money coming in but it's just not anywhere near enough. I've been as broad as I can be in what jobs I've applied for but the problem I've come up against time and time again is a lack of experience.

    Employers are often demanding totally unrealistic levels of experience for what are largely minimum wage, low-skilled positions. For example, how many people do they seriously think have 2-3 years of minimum wage data entry experience AND want to go into ANOTHER minimum wage data entry job?! That's just one example and it can be applied to pretty much every other minimum wage, full-time job I've encountered. They're jobs that pretty much anyone can do if they're just given a chance and if employers could be bothered to spend five minutes giving some training. Instead employers are being ridiculously pedantic and demanding. Many people are perfectly capable of doing these jobs, they just don't have the experience on paper, and therefore they're cast aside and never given a chance. I understand that you can't put an advert out and say it's available to everyone but there's too many employers are going too far the other way.

    How on earth are people supposed to get this all-important experience if no-one will employ them in the first place? Young people like me haven't had a great deal of time in their lives so far to get any experience other than the odd part-time supermarket job. All of these supposedly wonderful schemes for getting 16-24 year olds into work are a joke too. To qualify for the "New Deal" scheme you have to be on some form of benefits. Therefore if you're not on any benefits you're left to rot because of this black and white assumption that if you're not on benefits you must be financially comfortable. They consider my partner to be on a high enough yearly salary to support both of us and pay ALL of the bills, even when I was unemployed (I couldn't even qualify for Job Seekers Allowance due to the same issue).

    Perhaps if the benefits system and the government schemes for young people didn't see everything in such blunt, uncompromising terms then more people would get help in returning to employment or finding a better job.

  • Comment number 43.

    What is the point of attempting any kind of analysis of unemployment figures. They are based on systemic fiddling of statistics at all levels, they are consequently useless.

    Whole hosts of people have no jobs but don´t bother regisering anywhere because they would receive no money.

    Swathes of people are shuffled off to the disability register, even though no-one thinks they are in any way disabled.

    You don´t know how many people are in the country therefore you don´t know how many have left, hence you don´t know how many jobs have been lost.

    The public sector have continued hiring people. A lot of people in the public sector are providing no service and no value to anyone at all. Some are even having a negative effect (like for example the people that have been paid money to destroy the integrity of the statistical base).

    An awful lot of people are "self employed" They are likely to remain notionally self employed down to very low income levels, some may even accept a period of negative earnings.

    Vast numbers of people are off studying Golf Course Management degrees in third rate universities, being taught by third rate teachers. No-one asks why.


  • Comment number 44.

    leftie - the banks make profit by lending us fictional money and charging interest. If the average household is already 40k in the pot after profligate government spending, how much capacity is there for the banks to make further profits out of them?

    It is a ponzi scheme and it is over. The longer the pain is is postponed the more it will hurt.

  • Comment number 45.

    unemployment may be slowing now - just wait til the public sector shske-out next year whoever wins the election. Plenty of bad news stories in the pipeline or waiting to happen

  • Comment number 46.

    One thing I've not seen mentioned is that about 5 years ago I was made redundant in January. I had to talk to a employment lawyer about my redundancy payout and he said January was usually the biggest month of the year for numbers of people made redundant.

    This was because most firms didn't want to let people go just before Christmas so they saved all the redundancies from November and December and got rid of them all in January.

    So I would expect a further fall (in the rise) from the December figures released in January, but the numbers released in February will probably be horrific.

  • Comment number 47.

    5Arnold the Penguin
    I WILL ASK SAINT DUDE TO FIND YOU A JOB IN THE NEXT SEVEN DAYS....ANYONE ELSE WHO WANTS TO THE THE SAME FOR ARNOLD IS WELCOME TO DO SO TOO....IF IT WORKS, LET THE BLOG KNOW !
    SAINT JUDE IS USUALLY VERY HELPFUL!

  • Comment number 48.

    I suspect the fact that the US has suffered less of a recession is due to, as reported on the BBC website, the American output is estimated in an optimistic fashion and then corrected downwards, while the rest of the world estimates their output pessimistically and then corrects it upwards.

  • Comment number 49.

    I was wathing BBC News 24 wwhen the unemploymeent figures broke and was taken aback by how determined the news team were to make this a negativee anti government story. Same thing happened when David Cameron being quizzed on his "government" being UK domiciles/taxpayers - the BBC spun Cameron's pledge to change a law as a good thing when it was really a worm wriggling on the hook.

    What I mean is - there are a lot of good signs out there that the country is turning a corner. And Gordon Brown and Labour steered us there. Please, can we have more impartial reporting of facts from your colleagues please Stephanie!

  • Comment number 50.

    Unemployment does lag a recession.

    However, that assumes that extraordinary measures have not been taken.

    But the absurd steps of zero interest rates and QE have so distorted the operations of the market so as to delay the onset of the unemployment.

    Th upside of this is that those who 'should' have lost their jobs by now have not, but the downside is that they will have to lose their jobs eventually as the economic activities they are engaged in are either unaffordable or uneconomic when the absurdities are removed (that is when interest rates resume a rational level and QE is reversed.)

    The buffoons running the economic madhouse (MK etc.) know this, but dare not mention it for they will be seen as the idiots they are and they cling to the impossible hope of retiring before the brown stuff hits the fan (after the election, possibly?) They should be fired now!

  • Comment number 51.

    47 SAINT JUDE NOT SAINT DUDE

  • Comment number 52.

    #34 Colin Grant

    Sadly 12 years of spin led government has led to an unhealthy distrust in anything official published by this government. Experience has shown, time and again, that figures are massaged before being reported. In fact anything is fair game for omission if the end result is positive enough and a reasonable sounding excuse can made for it.

    The sad thing for all of those people being encourgaged not to sign on, or not signing on because they won't get anything, is that employers are becoming increasingly suspicious of gaps in employment history. If you are out of work and looking sign on, even if you don't get anything.

  • Comment number 53.

    The main problem that this government has had with statistics is that they have made it much easier to catch them out when they embellish the meaning. In the bad old days you didn't know they were spinning because the source data was kept under lock and key for thirty years: now it is in the open as soon as the Information Commissioner decides there is no good reason for it not to be.

    As for the actual figures: at least the government uses the ILO standard as their basis for unemployment and not the claimant count that the Tories used to hide the damage they did to many in our society in the 1980's and 1990's.

  • Comment number 54.

    Stephanie,

    could you do a graph showing the following covering the last say 25years?

    1) Unimployment Claiments
    2) Economically Inactive
    3) Work Force
    4) Net Migration

    I beleive the their are nearly 8million economically inactive citizans in the UK at the moment the highest ever! and That over the last 18months several million migrant workers have left the UK.

  • Comment number 55.

    Easily explained.

    Temporary workers for Xmas. Across the whole spectrum of commercial activity.

    Watch the number of unemployed rise once again in Jan / Feb.

    Is Gordon really planning to have an election in March, because I don't think employment numbers will help him.

    Not unless they are dramatically "massaged"..........

  • Comment number 56.

    One issue that has barely been raised in the flexible labour market discussion, is that of immigration. I have a strong suspicion that besides all the good work that companies and their employees have done to agree flexi hours and short time working etc, that immigration has played a significant role in minimising the rise in unemployment. The huge rise in Eastern European Immigration in the noughties has annecdotally been reveresed. An awful lot of people who came over because there was a lot of work have since left, and fewer appear to be arriving. My sense is these numbers might easily be in the hundreds of thousands of people, and of course when they lose their job they don't join the dole queue, they go home. For all the negative stories about temporary migration, this might be a really good addition to the flexible labour market discussion.

  • Comment number 57.

    My daughters BoyFriend has just turned 18 and hence went for his first signing on, for the next 4 weeks he has to attend to job centre 2 times a week once to sign on and once in connection with the job seekers scheam.

    All well and good, we live in kent and the return bus journey £5.80, or £11.60 per week out of his £56 benefit! He is spending 20% of his benefit just attending mandatroy seccions at the Job Center!

  • Comment number 58.

    If we're coming out of recession, then the true test is tax receipts.
    If they go up, we're coming out of recession, if they go down it's getting worse.

    Oddly enough it's the only statistic they will have trouble fiddling.

    For myself, a self employed working Joe, next year will likely see a decline in the amount of tax I pay, and according to most of my friends who are also self employed, they report the exact same thing.





  • Comment number 59.

    Didn't the Post Office take on a LOT of workers last month because of the strikes?

    So was it the Post Office that is responsable for the slight fall!

  • Comment number 60.

    ......what a croc. Amazing that so close to a General Election that the rise in unemployment has come to a halt. And all that it has cost is £200 billion in newly printed money, record government borrowing and real interest rates that are below 0%. And, just like Germany, we have protected our core of skilled workers in the manufacturing industry.

    Meanwhile back in the real world, politics remains the postponement of economic reality. Within 3 months of the election, the cuts in public expenditure will be matched by increases in interest rates, taxes and business failures. Jobs will be lost and houses repossessed. The Bank of England will try to sell the gilts that it has 'bought' into a falling market. And everyone will ask, why wasn't something done sooner about this, to which the answer will be, 'Gordon Brown was hoping to win an election'. Welcome to the world of the careerist politician. And by the way, unlike Germany, it wasn't the core of skilled workers in the maunufcaturing industry who were being protected because we no longer have one, but the client state voters employed in the public sector. Funny that.



  • Comment number 61.

    22 Eileen - thank you for the party political broadcast on behalf of the BNP.

  • Comment number 62.

    They'd better gorge on whatever "good news" they can as of now, because after Christmas things will get worse again and the jobless total will rise - then the public spending cuts and tax rises will kick in and however hard they try they won't be able to fiddle the disastrous unemployment figures or hide the return to long-term recession. Caledonian Comment

  • Comment number 63.

    47 - Saint Dude - Is he from the Big Lebowski?

  • Comment number 64.

    Don't worry everyone, if you lose your job Gordo will employ you.

    Gordo loves you. He will hug you until there is no breath left in you.

  • Comment number 65.

    57 - But think of the income for the bus company - it all helps the velocity of money, the multiplier effect!

  • Comment number 66.

    Stephanie
    I think you are being a bit previous. I am aware of many people about to loose their jobs in the new year. It has just taken about 6 months to go through all consultancy procedures. Expect 2010 to be a change year with rising inflation and unemployment.

    As you so rightly have also pointed out the government has managed to increase employment in the public sector during the last year which returns to the question about efficiency savings and the inability of Labour to achieve them in practice.

  • Comment number 67.

    Politicians are way too eager to talk of a recovery signs to boost confidence and spending. It just doesn't wash with Mr & Mrs Average income and their growing neighbourhood of Mr & Mrs Low or No income families.
    On the ground floor chaps and chapesses everyone almost bar none are worried about their businesses and jobs and 2010 I predict will see some wobbles and a few more collapses, redundancies and very little in the way of new job creation.
    Private debt on mortgages, credit cards and loans remains perilously high and extremely sensitive to interest rate changes, tax increases and massive increases in utility bills.
    The word on the street is the economy is stagnant at best and unlikely to see much in the way of growth for around 5 years.
    As the future unfolds we will see who the real Prophets are.

  • Comment number 68.

    As an employer of a predominantly skilled workforce I have tried to keep a core of the most skilled people even though parts of the business associated with the building sector have been very badly affected. Any further reductions in staffing would have left us unable to cope with any upturn and a one to three year training period to recreate the necessary skills. In the previous recessions many of the people who left the industry never returned. We have coped by imposing a pay freeze across the company and in the worst affected division a 4 day week. Most of the staff have responded extremely well, despite the obvious hardship it gives them. Maybe that's the real change in the UK workforce.

  • Comment number 69.

    I don't want to appear a snob - but why is it that most of the extremely negative posts are written by people who cannot spell and have a limited application of grammar? They expect us to believe that they have somehow a better grasp of statistics than the National Statistics Office - which is independent of the party of Government and provides statistics to all interested parties, including Cameron and Co - whilst being barely able to string a coherent sentence together. I am sorry but it just does not stack up!
    The company I work for, one of the larger IT companies in the UK, hit its profit target for the fiscal quarter ending in September and is on course to do the same for this quarter: and we supply one of the sectors that is supposedly suffering most in this downturn. Management laid off a third of the workforce in May / June but are now recruiting, as results are better than expected. Good signs: yes. End of the recession: too soon to say - but things are definitely moving in a positive direction.

  • Comment number 70.

    5 63
    YES!THAT WAS A GOOD ONE.I am dystypic!
    But let's not knock Saint Jude....I am not a mystic, I am not religious any more, it is like a vestigeal remnant,I know it is irrational,and I would not normally mention this in an in an economics blog.....
    but .....and I don't know why......St Jude often turns up trumps!
    Could this work for Arnold?....has St Jude worked for anyone on this blog?
    So,Arnold, will you let us know how you get on?
    And does anybody else want to join in?

  • Comment number 71.

    66. At 4:29pm on 16 Dec 2009, skynine wrote:

    "Stephanie
    I think you are being a bit previous. I am aware of many people about to loose their jobs in the new year. It has just taken about 6 months to go through all consultancy procedures."

    Well-put S9. I am one of them. It has taken my US employer 4 months to complete the "early retirement negotiations." A few hundred leave our company in January, a few more hundred in February and March, and more through to April 2011. Of course, as this was an "early retirement" process (our pension scheme was changed so that it was foolish NOT to retire) we are technically not unemployed but "voluntarily" retired.

  • Comment number 72.

    Post no 30 (by p45Builder) is the most informative - and other people have asked what the true rate of unemployment might be, too. Successive governments have changed the rules about how the count is made, and even what is measured, as unemployment benefit itself has been played with.

    So-called contribution related benefit is payed if you have any decent savings or if you have an earning partner bringing in more than a pittance. This is then terminated after 6 months, so it's only worth signing on to get pension credits - if you need them which, as p45Builder points out, many 50-somethings don't. So, if people bothered to claim the benefit in the first place - which is pretty trivial if you are used to a reasonable income - all one can say about the current figures is that the rate of increase in people claiming benefit is about balanced by the rate of people being effectively forced off the list.

    Such green shoots! As others, I suggest Ms Stephanomics digs a bit harder nearer home, rather than looking at published national stats around Europe - they're probably about as honest as ours!

  • Comment number 73.

    I'm sure there are very few people in this country who could accurately tell you what the claimant count is made up of and how it relates to what the man-in-the-street would think of as unemployed.

    Maybe a better figure to track would be the goverments PAYE/NI tax-take. I know this is subject to large seasonal variations and to pay cuts etc. But it should be a better guide to how much the employed are contributing and how much is being lost to the rest (unemployed/underemployed) who are no longer working.

    I'm still classed as employed (IT contractor) but have had no work in this tax year. My PAYE/NI payments this year will be a fraction (less than 5%) of what they were last year. I hope the government spends it wisely!

  • Comment number 74.

    No.60. geofffromleeds

    Don't you know the public sector is full of "key workers"; that's why public sector wages are on average higher than those of the private sector.

    Don't worry about manufacturing; Britain is now very good at production, assembly and design. We're also good at construction. We can lift ourselves out of recession by building more houses, shopping centres and multi-storey car parks.

    You can spend yourself richer, you know.

    PS - If we build shopping centres for foreign clients abroad, it will be classed as an export. Foreign markets are where the real money is these days.

  • Comment number 75.

    69. At 4:50pm on 16 Dec 2009, Tyto alba wrote:

    "I don't want to appear a snob - but why is it that most of the extremely negative posts are written by people who cannot spell and have a limited application of grammar?"

    But you are a snob, regardless of how you wish to appear. People have a right to express their views, even though they may be less literate than you. If you want to look down on people like a middle class Victorian, you are out of your time.

    "They expect us to believe that they have somehow a better grasp of statistics than the National Statistics Office"

    That's because they don't believe the evidence around them. Maybe you live somewhere different and posh. Go visit other places and see some real decay.

    "The company I work for, one of the larger IT companies in the UK, hit its profit target for the fiscal quarter ending in September and is on course to do the same for this quarter: and we supply one of the sectors that is supposedly suffering most in this downturn."

    Might that the the Finance sector? If it is, please work even harder, because the rest of us want some of our money back.

    I too work in the IT industry, and my company is growing and has billions in cash. All the same, hundreds of my colleagues are to be laid off in 1Q2010, because their pensions are too expensive to maintain. I cannot yet share your optimism about an upturn.

    You are fortunate, so you don't need to moan. Have some respect for those less fortunate.

  • Comment number 76.

    One explanation for the diparity between the US and UK jobs situation could be that UK employment laws are stricter than those of the US, this means UK employers haven't laid-off people unless they've really had to, in the US, a company can cut jobs just to boost its short-term profits.

  • Comment number 77.

    Actually Bertram Bird - I don't mind being a snob, it is just polite to apologise before being rude about somebody else's lack of education. Your response is far too predictable: you don't like what I say - even though you know it is accurate - so try and belittle me personally.
    The fact is that these people do not understand what they are talking about, come out with lurid, made up statistics and assertions based on prejudice and with minimal basis in fact and then have the cheek to accuse politicians of being dishonest.
    I don't work in or with the finance sector - my only involvement with banks is in managing my salary that gets lodged there on a monthly basis and managing my commitments and I live in a small semi-detached cottage in a village in the process of being swallowed up by a neighbouring town - but it was cheap to buy and enables me to live within my (modest) means.

  • Comment number 78.

    Steph "These are not figures you expect to see, in an economy still not formally out of recession"

    Well of course not. They are however, exactly the figures we expect to see in a debt fuelled, election driven, bubble-recovery.

  • Comment number 79.

    77. At 5:41pm on 16 Dec 2009, Tyto alba wrote:

    "Actually Bertram Bird - I don't mind being a snob, it is just polite to apologise before being rude about somebody else's lack of education. Your response is far too predictable: you don't like what I say - even though you know it is accurate - so try and belittle me personally."

    Touche!

    Sorry, I accept that you are a rude snob who is also somehow polite.

    I didn't really belittle you, did I?; because you are proud of what you are: a polite, rude snob.

    Have a nice evening in your cottage.

    BB

  • Comment number 80.

    Might it be that the numbers are entirely due to a higher number of people retiring - especially since the government announced a cap on public service pensions. Just a thought.

  • Comment number 81.

    The latest unemployment figures could be a reason for optimism if they were indeed true, which they are most definitely not. I prefer to gauge the real economy with the shop test, more charity shops = more poor people, more poor people = more unemployment. Judging by what I see I would estimate the true unemployment figure to be about 4 million and rising, also the economically inactive are increasing, pensioners, chronically ill etc. So unless the money supply is directed towards industry we can all look forward to Latin America style societies, and if global warming is true we might even get the weather to match.

  • Comment number 82.

    The latest unemployment figures are a reason for optimism, i would have thought it was a lot worse, there seems to have been more jobs around this month for some reason which i can't still work out unfortunately , many seem to be abroad or v low paid and too far away from home to take. Been out of work now since April 2009.
    I do honestly think things will pick up next year, at least i am hoping so ofcourse i do agree with those that say the real figure is most likely worse as some people are not signing on. To those that are out of work in IT like myself there are a lot of courses that you can pick up extra skills which may help and it might be an idea to do some voluntary work.

  • Comment number 83.

    #16 / StephenBlencowe

    Thanks for the kind advice Stephen. I am already a subscriber on one of Microsoft's programmes and have looked into setting up in business several times.

    Unfortunately, my local area is saturated with IT start ups - primarily people like me who have lost jobs and are looking to use their skills. Some of my local villages (population 3000) have TWO IT shops plus web-only/work from home outfits - and the current price war they are waging is unsustainable (current rates of £20/hr might sound a lot to joe public but ask a plumber if thats viable on 5-10 hrs a week...). I approached the local enterprise agency and they said the market is seriously oversubscribed.

    I've been applying for all and any IT work, some at 1/3 to a 1/4 of my previous salary and until this week not even had a reply. Phoning agencies gets verbal abuse due to the number of applications they're dealing with. Anyway, it sounds like you've found a good niche and I wish you the very best with it. I think in years to come it is quite likely that India/China will outsource work to us as the economic balance shifts and you will be well placed to become the next infosys ;O)

    # 47/70 onwardho

    Thanks :O) all prayers gratefully received! Had an email offering my first interview for a year yesterday so who knows!

  • Comment number 84.

    As for global warming and 2012 the mayan end of the world just enjoy the next two or three years as who knows whats going to happen...unemployed or not

  • Comment number 85.

    #69 Tyto alba. Absolutely spot on old chap. Far too many ill educated types trying to ram their semi literate opinions down the throats of the intelligensia.

    By the way what exactly is a "fiscal quarter"?

  • Comment number 86.

    As regards government employment figures...

    After losing my job I signed onto Job Seekers Allowance - JSA. My wife subsequently fell seriously ill (and has been most of this year). She was put on Employment Support Allowance - or ESA, the new name for Incapacity Benefit. I was then forced to go onto ESA as well - even though I am seeking work - as to claim JSA when my wife was on ESA was "fraudulent".

    So even though I am still seeking work and claiming benefits, I am no longer counted as unemployed. I don't know how widespread this is but it must account for some thousands at least.

  • Comment number 87.

    ArnoldThePenguin..
    My problem is the 20 pounds a hour jobs are too far away else i'd seriously consider taking them, still a few months ago they weren't even there. As i said things are mildly improving if you can call it that.

    I hope we get the facillities they've build in India :) they have amazing sports centres , yoga rooms tennis courts ...i could go on perhaps we'd be better getting a job out there the weather's nicer and its the only country with positive predictions about 2012 :) THE GOLDEN ERA...

    Good Luck on your interview.

  • Comment number 88.

    It appears that there is an uneven process taking place. Financial services,those very smart and unethical people who created the mess but did so in such a way that it had no impact on themselves, and their handmaidens, the politicians who gave your money to the banks to insure they did not suffer the consequences of their actions and also funded public sector employment with what has been euphamistically called a stimulus, paint a picture that does not reflect the realities for everyone else. How the stimulus plays into the maintaining of these jobs is not addressed. New employment opportunities for stable boys and gardeners on banker's estates is not something positive. More public employees funded by borrowed money either has an end point or new higher taxes. A little more detail would be needed to make a proper assessment. The economist will keep giving positive reports until the economy actually turns around and then beat their chest and say "I told you so."

  • Comment number 89.

    85 armagediontimes

    ''what is a fiscal quarter''. Its the part of the town where all the bankers work. You can spot it by the number of wine bars. Unless I'm misstaken.

  • Comment number 90.

    I hold a degree, and multiple professional certifications and, until October 2008, my salary put me in the top 5% of earners. Since then I have been out of work.

    My local job centre have been supportive but they're not used to professionals.

    After six months on the dole I had to attend a review to help me find work. The review consisted of reading an advert for a cleaning job paying "£5 per hour and an £1.50 per hour for overtime". I was then given a test where I had to:

    (i) write the total amount payable for overtime.
    (ii) place the apostraphe in the correct place in the word "wasn't".
    (iii) write my name and address clearly in the space provided.


    I'm not relying on the Job Centre to find me work (I've always been the proactive type) but that really astounded me.

    Firstly, if someone's literacy issues are that serious they need to be identified right at the begining - not after they've been unemployed six months - because they're not going to get a job until they can write their name and count to ten.

    And secondly, because it shows how irrelevant the Job Centre is towards the large number of professionals derailed by this recession - and apart from myself I know of a qualified lawyer stacking trollies at Morrisons and a qualified accountant working for £8/hr.

  • Comment number 91.

    90. At 7:20pm on 16 Dec 2009, ArnoldThePenguin

    You were in the top 5% of earners and yet you claimed dole for 6 months?

    I was under the impression that if you had savings then you're not entitled to benefits - or did you not have any savings? That would be very bad management of your money whilst you were working - to say the least!

    I'm sure the top 5% would have you earning ove 250k a year.

  • Comment number 92.

    "but right now it's almost leading the rest of the economy out. "

    "Economy coming out of recession" - where have I heard that one before.....?

    It's coming,

    It's coming,

    It's coming,

    It's coming,

    It's coming,

    It's coming,

    It's coming,

    It's coming,

    It's coming,

    It's coming,

    you'll be listening to this record next Christmas...

  • Comment number 93.

    Steph. During Thatcher's premiership alone, the count methodology was amended 28 times. There is no comparison today with the firures quoted thirty years ago. One would have to include everyone within five years of state pension age and un/under-employed in order to get anywhere close to an approximation of like for like figures.
    This really is a case where Descartes' adage holds true.

  • Comment number 94.

    #5 ArnoldThePenguin

    I've been put out of a job in the same way.

    How?

    1. Indian outsource consultancy makes contribution to NuLab.
    2. NuLab provides Indian outsource consultancy with FastTrack visas so their workers can come over here and do our jobs.

    I don't blame the outsource workers for this who are only trying to better themselves. Similarly it makes business sense on the face of it for both commercial parties in the agreement though usually it ends up costing the outsourced company far more than if they just kept it in house.

    Who I do blame, though, is the lying politicians.





  • Comment number 95.

    #91

    Only 5% of individuals in the UK earn over £50k a year. I was on £72k. The govt took @ £30k in tax under IR35 tax rules (whereby you take all the risk of self-employment and the govt takes 40% of the profit). As for the rest, I have been supporting my poorly wife (as neither of us claimed benefits prior to this year), paying for IVF and living away from home (paying two rents etc) to earn it. Given that we effectively had two homes and £40k between us we were no better off than the average couple despite a good salary. I did have savings but these have gone to cover the shortfall in benefits which do not actually cover the cost of living. We rent at below the average in a cheap area but benefit pays only 64% of our rent. Believe me, we were very careful with our cash even on a good salary - no new cars, no overpriced mortgage, no foreign holidays, no flash phones etc - inspite of which we've still had to cancel our last round of IVF to get money to pay the rent. Which hurts after all the tax I've paid...

  • Comment number 96.

    ...and who ever said economics is the gloomy science..? In the last 12 months economic "experts" have been tripping over themselves to give us advice all of which has been off the mark. As someone who works in the real world of manufacturing and exports most of what we make, the employment figures are no surprise to me at all. 12 months ago economists did a fine job of scaring most of our customers into squeezing and freezing costs with prophecies of depression etc...many of customers around the world stood still and waited, and waited, and waited...and finally come the start of Q3 they realised the prophecies of doom were an overkill and it was safe to buy and spend again without running out of cash. Now many businesses realise they need to stock inventory again so the wheels of industry turn again and the fear (which is really what held things back) has resided. In my world every region (UK included) is growing again, when industry moves the services will follow.
    To anyone that has been laid off I offer my sympathies, I've been in that boat before. But through my eyes the world economy is moving again and jobs should follow sooner rather later

  • Comment number 97.


    #87 neverwalkalone3...

    Yup, I've been applying for jobs paying £15/hr up to a 40 mile radius and £10 closer to home; any further or lower paid and I'd spend my wages on petrol. The distant jobs were readvertised for "local applicants only" (I can't relocate currently) and the local £10 jobs reject me as over-qualified. One contact at the job centre told me to dumb down my cv. I was always told to never lie on your cv as you always get found out (though I think they'd be pleasantly surprised in this case!) but in any case its hard to resign 12 years of experience and thousands of hours study to the waste bin. It may come to that... But as you say it has looked up a bit over the last month or so ;O)

    I did seriously think about working abroad - I applied for a contract in Dubai about six months ago (lucky escape as it turns out - the VISA alone would have cost me $3000!). Like you say, though, India might not be such a crazy idea; English is widely used and they have a huge IT industry. The salary would buy a good standard of living there - the only problem would be if/when you decide to come back to the UK.

    All the best in any case!

  • Comment number 98.

    Onward Ho:

    My guess as to your true identity:

    1. Alistair Campbell.

    2. Sarah Brown putting in a good word for hubbie.

    3. A flamer who enjoys winding up middle England with feigned happy-clappy New Labour guff that completely buys into the made up stats and ignores the evidence in front of everyone else's eyes.

  • Comment number 99.

    What is needed is not a measure of unemployment, rather a measure of the amount and type of employment in the economy. Count the workers - public sector / private sector, full time / part time.

    This will illustrate a true measure of the tax paying base which forms the foundation of the whole shebang.

    I have a hunch that the current number of productive private sector tax payers in full time employment (the bedrock of the whole system) is frighteningly small.

  • Comment number 100.

    Dempster is quite right. The tax income figures will tell the story. However, and this is something I have never understood, tax income will include tax receipts from employees in the public sector which will hide the real picture.

    I have never understood why public sector employees are taxed

 

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