, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Today, the government was very pleased to announce, on the BBC and in all the usual right-wing rags, that the number of people out of work in the UK has fallen to its lowest total for more than a year – 2.51 million or 7.8 per cent of the working-age population.

But the claimant count – which tracks the number of people receiving Jobseekers’ Allowance and is the most timely measure of employment – rose by 10,100 last month, the largest increase since September 2011, as reported by the BBC and The Guardian.

Both figures were released by the Office for National Statistics, which seems to be treading on territory that is practically owned by the Office of Budget Irresponsibility.

Are you as confused as I am?

How can unemployment be down when more people are claiming for it?

No explanation.

It’s interesting that long-term unemployment has increased by 12,000, meaning those out of work for over a year now number 894,000.

Part-time employment rose by 49,000 to 8.1 million, more than a quarter of the workforce and close to a record high.

The fall in unemployment has been attributed to a reduction in youth unemployment, but that still leaves 963,000 people, aged between 16 and 24, looking for work.

Most tellingly, average incomes rose by 1.8 per cent for the year to date, while inflation measured according to CPI is now 2.7 per cent. According to RPI, it’s 3.2 per cent. That means the spending power is falling.

Economists say the job market is worsening, possibly as people who were hired for the Olympics, and other summer events, come off firms’ books.

Bank of England supremo Mervyn King said the figures suggested the labour market was “pretty strong” but said it was hard to reconcile this with the economy’s weak growth.

I’ve got a pretty good idea about that, Mervyn.

The economy is growing slowly because the vast majority of people aren’t being paid reasonably by their employers. Wages have grown by almost (or more than, depending which yardstick you use) a whole percentage point less than inflation. People don’t have the money to spend!

If the economy is to enjoy real growth, then the government needs to launch a major attack on tax avoidance and tax havens, get that money back into the UK Treasury where it belongs, and then use it to invest in British infrastructure and British business. That way, firms can get back on their feet and will have no excuse not to pay a living wage to workers. Then working-class people – the vast majority of the population – will have a higher disposable income and therefore more spending power (they’ve hardly got any to spare at the moment). They will use that money; it will go around the system again, and the economy will grow again.

If I can see that – and I’m no economist – why can’t you? Why can’t Gideon George Osborne?

I think we all know the answer to that. He can.

But it suits his purposes to ignore it.