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Labour market figures: the Conservatives have failed working people

Published date
Today’s jobs data again reinforced how badly working people have been failed over the last 14 years. Unemployment was up, long term sickness hit a new record and real pay has still not advanced from 2008 levels in real terms.
  • 1.51 million now unemployed (up 138,000 on the quarter), as rate rises to 4.4%  

Unemployment is rising again, by 138,000 on the quarter to 1½ million.  The unemployment rate was up to 4.4 per cent over February-April from 4.0 per cent over November-January.  

Across advanced economies as a whole, 20 countries are seeing unemployment rise and 13 seeing unemployment fall. The UK increase of 0.4 ppts is the worst of all G7 countries, and the third worse of all advanced economies – to Finland and Estonia. (The position is only slightly changed from the quarter one figures issued at the weekend.) 

The deterioration is sharper for employment than unemployment, with a fall of 200,000 on the quarter.  And the fall is focused on employee jobs that are full time.  

Industry figures show the deterioration is focused in private sector industries. Since the start of the year jobs have fallen by over 25,000 in each of accommodation and food, wholesale and retail, business services and construction. The deterioration has been partly offset by ongoing jobs growth in the public sector and in administration.  

  • 2.83 million out of work as they are long-term sick – another record high   

In parallel to the deterioration in unemployment, inactivity increased by 132,000 on the quarter including yet another rise of 55,000 in long-term sick.  

The total who are economically inactive due to long-term sickness is now 2.83 million. As the chart below shows, a record high following an unprecedentedly steep rise from 2 million ahead of the pandemic.

The situation is a vivid and disastrous illustration of the consequences of starving the public sector of adequate funds. Austerity meant the NHS was not well positioned to handle the pandemic, in spite of the heroic efforts of the workforces. Backlogs in treatments are now hurting the wider economy.  

  • Pay still squeezed – if wages had grown at the pre-financial crisis rate the average worker would be earning £14,700 more a year  

As inflation falls and nominal pay growth holds up, real pay has moved momentarily into positive territory. But these gains are scant consolation for workers enduring the worst pay crisis for two centuries. Real pay is still below the level in 2008, and if wages had grown at the pre-financial crisis rate the average worker would be earning £14,700 more a year.

At a more granular level, TUC analysis recently showed that pay packets are worth less than 2008 in nearly two-thirds of UK local authorities

TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak spoke for all of us:  

“These damning figures show the Conservatives have taken the jobs market from bad to worse.  

“Unemployment is rising. Vacancies are falling. Insecure work is at epidemic levels. Record numbers are long-term sick. And wages are still worth less than in 2008.  

“The Tories have failed working people. We need a government that will rebuild industry, create wage growth, and deliver a better living for working families.”   

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