Government to blame as jobless total hits 17-year high


Unions have queued up to condemn today’s unemployment figures, which have hit a 17-year high.

Figures released by the Office of National Statistics show unemployment stands at 2.57 million, with one in five people aged 16-24 out of work and claming benefits.

Part-time workers were also down by 175,000 and over-65s in employment were down by 74,000.

While the TUC accused the government of “sponsoring” the jobs crisis, PCS said the government was “cruelly driving us over the edge”, Unite said David Cameron was like a “drunken captain steering us towards the rocks” and GMB dubbed the Conservatives “the uncaring party of mass unemployment”.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “These are terrible figures. The government’s austerity measures have turned unemployment into a full-blown crisis – with job losses not seen since the darkest days of the recession.

“Worryingly, this is not simply the result of Eurozone troubles. This unemployment crisis is state sponsored, and areas like the North East are paying a heavy price with more than one in ten people out of work.

“The news for those in work is bleak too, with wage rises falling back to just 1.8 per cent and creating an even tighter squeeze on living standards.

“The Chancellor’s Plan A has sent unemployment to a 17-year high. This country urgently needs a plan B to get people back into work.”

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Almost daily now, new evidence is coming out that our economy is on the brink of another recession and our government is recklessly and cruelly driving us over the edge.

“Before they abandon a generation to unemployment for ideological reasons, ministers need to urgently invest in our future and halt the cuts that are wreaking havoc across the country, not least to the very staff who can get people back to work, earning money and paying their taxes.”

Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary, said: “Here is yet more proof that this government’s policies are wrong for the economy. Our recovery is not even off the starting blocks, and the toll of job losses keeps on mounting.

“Today’s figures show that young people are paying a heavy price for the bankers’ recession – the government must act to give them hope for the future. Long-term unemployed figures are also climbing – to be out of work for more than 12 months has a huge impact on people and their families.

“The government must put a stop to public sector job losses – they are hitting the private sector, and our chances of recovery, hard. There are fair alternatives – such as getting the banks to pay their fair share, introducing a small (0.05%) tax on financial transactions, and raise billions that can be used to stimulate growth and recovery – and give hardworking people back some hope.”

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “The policies that David Cameron is recklessly pursuing is akin to a drunken captain of an ocean liner, steering straight towards the rocks, heedless of the many warnings of the unwilling passengers.

“Today’s unemployment figures are a scandal, particularly for young people who are also suffering record high unemployment levels.

“And what is frightening for the future is that the figures for the long-term unemployed – those out of work for two years or more – are also rising. This means that if you lose your job today, the chances of you finding a new position soon is frighteningly slim.

“The need for an economic Plan B is crystal clear – and that should contain a coherent boost for manufacturing; a tax system that distributes income fairly and not let the rich elite profit from the lax tax avoidance regime in this country; and a cessation of the draconian cuts to public expenditure which is draining much-needed demand from the economy and the high streets of Britain.

“The government’s economic policy is in tatters – and the need for a massive reversal of policy is required urgently.”

The UCU the government needed to urgently rethink policies that would restrict young people’s access to education, training and work as youth unemployment reached a record high of 991,000.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “We hit record youth unemployment levels at the same time that financial support for college students has been removed, the cost of a university degree has trebled and the Future Jobs Fund has been axed.

“The government needs to urgently rethink these policies and provide the support young people need to get into education, training and jobs.  Otherwise we risk consigning an entire generation to a life with no jobs, no education and no prospects.”

GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said: “The Tories and Lib Dem’s big gamble that private sector growth would create enough jobs to compensate for their cuts in public sector jobs has not come off as the rise to 2.57m without jobs shows.

“In the middle of the worst international recession for 80 years the government itself is creating unemployment with 250,000 public sector posts already gone and still more to come. These posts could have been available to the 2.57 million workers now facing the despair of mass unemployment.

“Government policy is hurting but it’s not working. We know that the Tories are the uncaring party of mass unemployment but the Marie Antoinette impression from the Lib Dems has got to stop. An emergency budget for investment in jobs is overdue.

“The priority is for investment to create jobs and boost confidence rather than cuts in the tax rate for the super-rich. Investment in housing, school repair, energy and transport are all badly needed and will create jobs and growth in all sectors of the economy. The squandering of human talent through unemployment is a crime that will haunt future generations.”

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