Unions accuse government of ‘aborting the economic recovery’. TUC says UK is ‘a million jobs short of pre-recession health’
(Pictured: protester on STUC demonstration against youth unemployment, March 2012)
In one of the most shocking statistics from the monthly survey, 38.5% of 16 and 17-year olds are unemployed.
There were 1.03 million unemployed 16 – 24 year olds in the 3 months to February – down 9,000 from the previous quarter.
Across the economy, the unemployment rate was 8.3%, down 0.1 on the quarter.
The North East of England remains the single area of highest unemployment in the UK, with 11.2% of people out of work, despite a fall of 9,000 over the period.
There were 2.65 million unemployed people across the UK, down 35,000 on the quarter. The ONS says this is the first quarterly fall in unemployment since the three months to May 2011.
Long term unemployment remains one of the most alarming elements in the figures, according to analysts, with rates remaining well above those predicted a year ago and public concern over lengthening dole queues reaching a 15-year high.
The IPPR think-tank has predicted that the number of people out of work for a year to go up by a further 107,000 by the end of the year to hit almost a million – 962,000 – and unions warn that stagnant economic growth means lower wages and too few new jobs. The continuing increase in involuntary part-time employment is described as ‘the great hidden story’ of the UK labour market.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “This long overdue fall in unemployment will bring relief to the 2.6 million people desperately looking for work.
“While any rise in the number of jobs is welcome, the fact is that full-time employment is still falling and a record 1.4 million are now stuck in involuntary part-time work.
“There’s also a sting in the tail for those in work for with wages falling even faster than feared due to low pay growth and stubbornly high inflation.
“We now need to turn today’s good news into a sustained fall in unemployment, with decent pay rises and full-time work. The UK is still a million jobs short of its pre-recession health.”
Once again, there are stark regional variations in jobless rates, with a rise of 18,000 in the number of people out of work in the North-West, and falls of 17,000 and 21,000 in East England and York & Humber.
UNISON accuses the government of being ‘frozen into inaction’ with a ‘no-hope policy of public service cuts’.
General secretary Dave Prentis said: “The Government is digging itself and the country into a deeper hole with its swingeing cuts to public services and jobs.
“Hundreds of thousands of jobs have gone in the public sector and with them millions of people have lost vital services.
“The Government is failing to tackle the growing problem of long-term unemployment which is bringing misery to so many families. In addition, the record number of people forced into part-time working is masking the sheer scale of unemployment. And women are again bearing the brunt of job cuts with the number unemployed going up by 8,000 to 1.14m.
“Cuts are not the answer, we need investment in jobs and services to stimulate the economy and breathe new life into failing local economies.”
Growth in average pay across the economy remains stagnant, and continues to lag well behind inflation.
The ONS puts the annual growth rate for pay at 1.1%, down 0.2 on the three months to January 2012.
The annual growth rates for the total public sector fell to a record low (since comparable records began in 2001) of 1.1% – down 0.6%.
However, average weekly pay for the private sector (£459 per week) was lower than the total public sector (£477 per week).
Paul Kenny, GMB general secretary said: “We are far from out of the woods yet.
“By recklessly aborting the economic recovery underway in the UK in 2010 this Tory Lib Dem government has stopped 400,000 young workers getting a job.
“Job creation now underway in the US economy would also have been well underway in the UK too were it not for a deliberate act of government policy.
“Every day brings new job losses for GMB members like this week at Peglers in Leeds and Doncaster and Acquascutum in Corby.
“The electorate on May 3rd must deliver a clear message to Tories and Lib Dems that we want them to follow the proven Obama route to economic recovery and that mass youth unemployment is not a price worth paying.”
In other statistics, the ONS says February 2012 saw 5,000 working days lost from nine stoppages. Over the previous twelve months, there were 1.40 million working days lost from 135 stoppages.
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “While the country digests more bombshells from last month’s budget, we are seeing nothing from the government to tackle the serious issue of high unemployment.
“The government needs to focus on getting young people into training and work, not restricting access to education or finding ways to make them work for free.”
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