Unemployment DOES exist and – at more than 14 MILLION – it ISN’T at record lows. Philip Hammond is living in a fantasy world

Philip Hammond: This is an actual publicity shot of the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer. Draw your own conclusions!

If he’s living a fantasy, what does this presage for the Budget on Wednesday?

Many people were up in arms yesterday (November 19), after Philip Hammond told Andrew Marr the following:

“Where are all these unemployed people? There are no unemployed people.” What a silly thing to say.

He was knocked back almost straight away by Mr Marr, who pointed out that official figures show 1.42 million people on Jobseekers’ Allowance. Mr Hammond dismissed this as a historic low (it isn’t; in the early 1970s it was around one million people).

In any case, the Jobseekers’ Allowance figure is not indicative of the true number of people without work in the United Kingdom – as Mr Hammond should know full well.

In 2013, when the Jobseekers’ Allowance figure was at 2.51 million, This Site pointed out that true unemployment – according to the Office for National Statistics – was at 11.71 million. That was the number of people who were out of work and not paid the minimum wage, which is a better yardstick.

This includes not only the number officially counted as unemployed, but those counted as ‘economically inactive’ and those on government-sponsored schemes such as Workfare or the Work Programme – who work, but are paid only in government benefit money and therefore, as the taxpayer is picking up the tab, should be counted with the unemployed.

People who are ‘economically inactive’ include people who are not seeking work, such as those looking after the family or home, those who don’t want or need a job, and those who have retired early – which is why this group is not included in ONS unemployment figures – but also includes those seeking work but officially unavailable for it, such as students in their final year, people who cannot work for health-related reasons, and ‘discouraged workers’ who believe there are no jobs available.

“Where are all these unemployed people”, Mr Hammond? Here they are:

If you look at the most recent statistical release from the ONS, it states that 32.06 million people are in employment, and this is 75 per cent of the workforce aged 16 to 64. This means the workforce totals 42.75 million people.

In other words, the actual number of people who are unemployed in the UK is 10.69 million.

The ONS release states this includes 8.88 million who were economically inactive. Your guess is as good as mine as to what the other 390,000 have been doing.

The 8.88 million figure includes 2.04 million who were not looking for work due to long-term sickness, 73,000 more than for April to June 2017 and 41,000 more than for a year earlier. But we know that the Tory government is doing its best to force these people off-benefit and into work of any kind. Shouldn’t they be included in the official unemployment rate, rather than simply being lumped among the economically-inactive?

And there is another question: Under-employment.

How many people are in zero-hours contracts now? Nearly a million. Those people are not contributing as much as they want, and most of them are certainly not earning as much as they would like. But the current government classes them in exactly the same way as somone in full employment.

How many people are self-employed? 4.81 million – an increase of 25,000 since September 2016. How many of those are self-employed because they can’t afford to retire? How many are self-employed but not earning as much as the minimum wage (sorry – National Living Wage)? Half of them, according to the Resolution Foundation. That’s 2.4 million.

Hey – what about students looking for work? 177,000 (aged 16-24). People on government training programmes? 73,000.

So the combined number of unemployed or under-employed people in the UK comes to around 14.34 million. That’s a whopping 12.92 million more than the Tories are claiming.

That’s why the social media erupted at Mr Hammond’s ill-chosen words. Here’s a selection:


And there’s one more point to make: What would the Conservatives have done if a Labour politician had made such a wild claim about unemployment?

Current Tory press chief is Carrie Symonds – who loves to leap at the Labour Party at every opportunity:

Here she is, attacking John McDonnell for words he spoke during his appearance on the same Andrew Marr show:

Perhaps she has forgotten that, in the June general election, Labour provided exhaustively-detailed explanations of how it would fund all its policies, while the Conservative Manifesto offered nothing.

It seems Mr Hammond is not the only Conservative living a fantasy.

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10 thoughts on “Unemployment DOES exist and – at more than 14 MILLION – it ISN’T at record lows. Philip Hammond is living in a fantasy world

  1. Brian

    Steady on, Philip Hammond is correct, as what he really meant (Freudian slip) was we are slaves of the state, yes similar to Stalin’s Russia mentioned. As for robots and selv service, British Gas is sending threatening emails for people to read their own meter’s, with consequences of “inaccurate” bills. When are people going to wake up to these ever broadening boundaries of imposition, manipulation and lies.

  2. Dave Rowlands

    And lets not forget all the meter readers that will be replaced by all these “Smart Meters”

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I have NOT missed a decimal point!
      For crying out loud – the whole point of the post is to show that not only was Philip Hammond talking absolute drivel, but so is the official unemployment figure.
      There are 14 million people in the UK, of working age, who are either not in work or not doing enough.

      1. Tony Dean

        Mike sorry but you are wrong to add the economically inactive to the unemployment figure.
        Have you bothered to check exactly who they are?

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        They’re still unemployed.
        I did consider altering the figure to take out certain kinds of “economically inactive” people but the fact that people on sickness and disability benefits are included in that number by the government makes it clear that these are members of the workforce and should be included.
        As you can see: Yes, I did bother to check exactly who they are.

  3. Prickly

    Mike – Tony Dean appears to be the type of person who only reads your headline and not your article. Then he decides to comment.
    Thank you for your article, the figures make sense. Any figures put out by govt. do not make sense.

  4. Felix Lanzalaco

    missed the context here. Hopefully unintentional. Hammond was referring to whether the transition from typewriters to word processors, had made people unemployed when it had done the reverse and nobody had become unemployed as a result of technological replacements for skilled workers. Mike you need to do more fact and context checking. The worst thing for the busy layperson like myself reading political news is how writers constantly grab soundbites and twist them out the original full context. Its absolutely a terrible thing that journalists still try to manipulate us like this.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      No, you need to consider what is actually said. Hammond said: “Where are all these unemployed people? There are no unemployed people.” He didn’t say, “There are no unemployed shorthand typists,” so he was referring to unemployment in general.
      I did not twist anything at all. Hammond was making a general point about unemployment by referring to a specific set of workers.
      It is absolutely appalling that commenters still try to twist what writers say in order to make lame political points.
      Don’t do it again.

Comments are closed.