Unemployment rate could be twice as high as figures claim

People queuing outside Jobcentre Plus. Pic courtesy: The Guardian

The Office for National Statistics has put out new figures on the number of people in work – and it’s more than last month. Hooray!

But, as ever, the devil’s in the detail and – as usual – the small print is annoyingly devoid of the detail we need. Boo!

We are told that figures for September showed employment continued to rise (by 112,000 since the April-June period) and unemployment continued to fall (by 115,000 people). There appear to be 3,000 people for whom these figures don’t account. Interesting…

(Perhaps they’re now on Universal Credit – as those figures aren’t counted in these figures, meaning the current way of calculating these statistics is misleading from the start.)

Pay rates – excluding bonuses – was 1.3 per cent higher than at this time last year. This was being trumpeted as a huge success, as pay has risen about the Consumer Price Index (CPI) calculation of inflation, which stood at 1.2 per cent in September. What a shame the more accurate (which is why the government doesn’t use it) Retail Price Index (RPI) calculation of inflation stood at 2.3 per cent, well above in increase in pay rates.

Let’s all take a moment to remind ourselves of where those wages are going, too. Tom Pride, over at Pride’s Purge, has a little graphic for it, which is stolen and reproduced below:


So all those bankers, directors and MPs are taking all the cash, leaving the rest of us with – what? This article suggests that, when you take out all the variations – like bonuses, wages for people who do real jobs (unlike bankers, directors and MPs) increased by just 0.6 per cent in the past year. That’s from the Bank of England.

If employment has increased – and there’s no reason to say it hasn’t – we can also conclude that the reason employers are more willing to take people on is that they can pay peanuts for them and rely on the government to top them up with in-work benefits. It seems likely that the work was always there but employers weren’t going to take anybody on if it meant increasing the wages bill and reducing the amount of profit available to them. Now that zero-hours contracts are available, along with part-time schemes that deny people pensions and holiday pay, it’s a different matter.

Of course the trade unions are in no position to stand up for workers’ rights – they have been stripped of any influence over the past 35 years of neoliberal, free-market rule.

The number of people who were self-employed increased by a staggering 186,000, to reach 3.25 million, while people working as self-employed part-time increased by 93,000 to reach 1.27 million. That’s 4.52 million – almost one-sixth of the total number of people in work. If you think that’s great, you haven’t been paying attention. Remember this article, warning that the increase was due to older people staying in work? And what about the catastrophic collapse in self-employed earnings we discovered at the same time?

How many of these are people who have been persuaded to claim tax credits as self-employed people, rather than jump through the increasingly-difficult hoops set out for them if they claimed Jobseekers’ Allowance – and do they know they’ll have to pay all the money back when their deception is discovered?

The number of people in part-time employment has also increased, by 28,000 to reach 6.82 million. Are we to take it that this means under-employment has increased again?

Public sector employment has fallen again. If you want to know why the government keeps messing you around, there’s your answer. There aren’t enough people to do the job. This month’s statistics show 11,000 fewer public sector employees than in March, and 282,000 fewer than this time last year.

Unemployment is said to have dropped – but remember, this is not counting people who have been sanctioned. A recent study by Professor David Stuckler of Oxford University suggests as many as half a million people could have been sanctioned off-benefit in order to massage the figures, meaning that the total listed – 931,700 – is probably wrong. Remember also that Universal Credit claimants aren’t counted, nor are those on government work schemes – another 123,000 people.

This means the actual unemployment rate is likely to be double the number provided by the official statistics.

And what about people on ESA/DLA/PIP?

It’s said that the numbers don’t lie.

What a shame that can’t be said about the people manipulating them.

15 thoughts on “Unemployment rate could be twice as high as figures claim

  1. Tony Dean

    Mike, looking over several datasets, there really are some odd things going on.
    Millions more “in work,” BUT that just is not reflected in total hours worked in the economy.
    Also there are over 1/2 a million disappeared from JSA who have not appeared anywhere else.
    Despite Iain Smiths best efforts the number on IB/ESA are creeping back up, with 700000 people still waiting for a decision for a year due to “mandatory reconsideration.”
    factor that into todays dataset, and those ESA number are going to be worse than they were when Iain Duncan Smith was put in charge of the DWP.


  2. Stephen Tamblin

    Yes there you go bankers mps and top brass thay are earning millions where the money should be given to nhs firemen and other low paid organisations so you can see where the money is going no need to say where it’s going I will give you three guesses you will only need one

  3. Chris Kitcher

    But even more worrying is a report in todays “i” newspaper that only one in 40 new jobs are full-time.according to the TUC.

    Just shows how he Tories can’t stop lying.

  4. Tisme's Cares

    Great Britain(level) Great Britain(%) United Kingdom(level) United Kingdom(%)
    All people
    Economically active† 31,878,000 77.9 32,752,000 77.8
    In employment† 29,971,000 73.1 30,793,000 73.0
    Unemployed§ 1,907,000 6.0 1,959,000 6.0
    Economically inactive‡ 8,716,000 22.1 9,030,000 22.2

    I’m betting these are the figures Mark Carney of the bank of England is working off when calculating whether to put up interest rates.

  5. Tisme's Cares

    Funnily enough – this data set has not moved down since 2010 – so much for Austerity working and unemployment coming down eh? Instead they have increased.


    “More than eight million people of working age – more than a fifth of the total – are not in paid employment, official figures show.

    James Kirkup By James Kirkup, Political Correspondent3:23PM GMT 17 Feb 2010
    The number of people who are neither in work nor seeking employment reached 8.08 million in the last three months of last year, the highest on record.
    In all, 21.3 per cent of working-age adults are now “economically inactive”, a category that includes students, the long-term sick, unpaid carers and those who retire early.”

  6. wildswimmerpete

    Bear in mind the 1950s baby boomers, like me, are now mostly over 60 and accordingly the DWP encouraged the over 60s to claim Pension Guarantee Credit. Those receiving PGC aren’t counted in the figures. In fact PGC comes from the Pension Service’s pot, not from the Jobcentre Plus pot. The clue’s in the name: baby BOOMERS. There’s a lot of us.

  7. jaypot2012

    They say that the nurses got a 1% rise – both my brother and my sister-in-law are nurses and have been told that they cannot have the rise – They both live in Wales.
    My sister works as a practice nurse in England and has been told that there will not be a rise as they can’t afford it.
    My son-in-law works in London as a pharmacist in G.OS.H and has been told he cannot have a rise due to there being no spare funds.
    I’m an ex- Medical Secretary/PA and retired due to ill health – I checked with my long time friends – they got a one and a half percent rise – *go figure*.

    As for the numbers out of work, I will never, ever trust any government to give a true figure as they don’t know how to tell the truth. This month and next month will bring more employment for the Christmas season, but after that, it’s back on the dole until the caravan parks and the holiday season begins.
    I always double the figures that are “put out” as official figures then I double them and add another million on top of that, or more…

  8. Keith Jackson

    I find it flabbergasting that I never see Labour challenge any of these figures, why must we have to read it here? Yet again tonight on BBC news we hear these ‘tory positive’ figures shouted from the rooftops, yet I hear no challenging of the figures from Labour, why is this?

  9. Ian Duncan

    I have Radio 5 Live (BBC) on most of the day and have been hearing these figures repeated verbatim as though hey were gospel. This is the national news and sport station with more than half of the day’s airtime filled with what passes for journalism in the corporation these days. Not once have I heard an examination of the figures, the newsreader just parrots them as fact and moves on. And we *have* to pay for this. I’ve never heard anything from Labour, though to be honest, there’s no guarantee it would be broadcast, so tight is the Tory grasp on the BBC now.

    Can somebody explain Labour’s timidity, either in getting their point across or countering the Tory lies about who caused the economic crash?

    Douglas Alexander on Question Time last week just sat there while the Tory berk repeated the “Labour bankrupted us” lie. He did not say one syllable in his party’s defence.

    There’s so much for Labour to aim at with this inept, shabby, morally repellent government that they could spend all day, every day on the attack and still have ammunition left for the 2020 election. The sleaze, corruption, stupidity and downright evil (yes, you, so-called Iain Duncan Smith, I’m talking to you) have all been happening on a grand scale and Labour? Nary a peep therefrom.

    These actual unemployment and economic figures – the reality behind the figures – could make the government look like the duplicitous pr*cks they are.

    1. Michele Witchy Eve

      Keith and Ian, you both raise a good question: why doesn’t Labour fight back hard on these dodgy stats from the govt? It’s deeply puzzling and does nothing to help Labour’s cause when trying to convince voters that Labour aren’t/won’t be ‘just like the rest of them’ in Westminster. Anyone able to give us a reason?

      As it stands now it just looks as if Labour (or any opposing party) are too scared to challenge these presented results for fear they might have to admit something they really don’t want their voters to be aware of. Go on, Labour, give us a clue will you.

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