‘Total' unemployment is 6.3 million

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date: 13 January 2012

embargo: 00.01hrs Tuesday 14 February 2012

Using the American U6 measure of unemployment - which includes unemployed, discouraged, marginally attached and under-employed workers - would mean unemployment in the UK standing at 6.3 million, higher than any point since the early 1990s, according to a new TUC analysis published today (Tuesday).

While the UK has two common measures of joblessness - ILO unemployment (currently 2.68 million) and the claimant count (1.6 million) - the US uses six measures of joblessness that incorporate long-term unemployment, recent job losses, redundancies and under-employment, such as working part-time because full-time work isn't available.

Using official UK government data, the TUC has replicated the six measures of US unemployment and found that using the broadest measure of joblessness, U6 or 'total' unemployment in the UK is currently over 6.3 million - the highest it has been since records began in April 1993, when it was 6.1 million.

While ILO unemployment was higher in the early 1990s (peaking at 3.02 million in January 1993) than today, under-employment - people working part-time because they can't find full time jobs - is higher today (1.3 million) than at any point since April 1993, when it stood at 802,000.

The number of economically inactive or discouraged people who want work in the UK is broadly the same today (2.34 million) as it was in April 1993 (2.35 million) having peaked at 2.59 million in December 1996.

The analysis also shows that under-employment - people doing temporary or part-time jobs because they can't find permanent or full-time work - has risen to a record 1.9 million.

The record levels of under-employment today show that our jobs crisis is far worse that the headline figures suggest, says the TUC.

While involuntary part-time and temporary jobs are better than no work at all in most cases, these tend to be low-paid, insecure, have little or no career prospects and so not a sustainable way to solve the UK's labour market problems, says the TUC.

The TUC is calling on the government to acknowledge the scale of the jobs crisis, rather than simply repeat the ill-informed claim that there are plenty of jobs out there. It wants ministers to take action to get vital investment into the private sector so that it starts creating jobs, stop putting hundreds of thousands of public servants on the dole and boost job schemes to get younger people back into work.

The TUC believes that without government stimulus, growth will continue to falter which will cause long-term damage to the UK economy.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'The headline unemployment figures are bad enough, but the true scale of joblessness is even worse. Over six million people are either out of work or under-employed. Tackling this crisis should be the government's number one priority.

'Our jobs crisis is not confined to those out of work. Nearly two million people are being forced to take low-paid, insecure, short hours jobs because of the lack of proper full-time employment. This means people are taking home much less pay, which is putting a real strain of family budgets.

'When ministers say there are plenty of jobs out there, they are ignoring the sheer numbers of people looking for work, as well as the suitability and location of the jobs available.

'Rather than seek to blame unemployed people for being out of work, the government should start helping them by putting proper resources into employment schemes.

'Unless we get people back into decent jobs and wages growing in line with prices again we will not secure a sustainable economic recovery nor get the deficit down.'


Descriptions of the six measures of US unemployment (U1-U6)

U1: Persons unemployed for 15 weeks or longer

U2: Job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs

U3: Total unemployed (official unemployment rate)

U4: Total unemployed plus discouraged workers

U5: Total unemployed, plus discouraged workers, plus all other persons marginally attached to the labour market

U6: Total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labour market, plus total employed part time for economic reasons

Source: www.bls.gov/webapps/legacy/cpsatab15.htm

U1-U6 unemployment in the UK, April 1993-October 2011

U1 (000s)*

U2 (000s)**

U3 (000s)

U4 (000s)

U5 (000s)***

U6 (000s)

April 1993







April 1997







April 2001







April 2005







April 2009







April 2011







October 2011







Source: ONS

* U1 unemployment is defined as people unemployed for 15 weeks or more. These figures are not available in the UK so the TUC has used 26 weeks as the nearest equivalent.

** The TUC has used redundancy figures as the nearest UK equivalent. These figures are not included in U6 unemployment.

*** The UK equivalent of 'marginally attached' are the 'want work' figures - those who say they would like a regular paid job, but who do not meet the internationally agreed definition of unemployment because they have not been looking for work in the last four weeks and/or they were unable to start working within two weeks.

- A full table of U1-U6 unemployment in the UK from April 1993 to October 2011 is available from the TUC press office.

- Official figures for involuntary part-time and temporary work are not available before April 1993.

- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk


Media enquiries:
Liz Chinchen T: 020 7467 1248 M: 07778 158175 E: [email protected]
Rob Holdsworth T: 020 7467 1372 M: 07717 531150 E: [email protected]
Elly Gibson T: 020 7467 1337 M: 07900 910624 E: [email protected]

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