Cameron uses outdated stats to distort today’s dismal job news
At this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions David Cameron made several claims about the state of the labour market including:
- There are 50,000 more women in work than at the time of the election.
- There are 500,000 more private sector jobs.
Really? By using outdated statistics, and ignoring large changes in the size of the working age population, he presented a distorted picture.
First, the data that Cameron has used is distinctly odd: instead of looking at annual change (the usual measure of labour market performance), he takes his figures from the February-April 2010 quarter (the period before he was in office) and compares them with the most recent statistics (which cover July-August 2011).
But this is not the only problem with Cameron's analysis.
Are there more women in jobs?
The Prime Minister is right to say that over the particular period he has looked at the number of women in work rose. But this misses a crucial point – over the same time the working age female population rose by 107,000. Particularly given this change, the best way to assess the change in women’s chances of moving into a job is to look at their employment rate – the percentage of working age women currently employed. Even using the PM’s carefully chosen time period, the female employment rate has fallen, from 65.5 per cent to 65.4.
In addition, the number of women who are unemployed rose by 98,000, and the unemployment rate rose by 0.6 per cent to 7.3. The female unemployment level is now the highest it has been since 1988 – and the rate is the highest since 1994.
Are there 500,000 more private sector jobs?
The short answer to this question is not in the last year. While the period Q1 2010 to Q2 2011 (a period of 18 months) does show a net gain of 575,000 private sector jobs the most recent statistics for annual jobs growth (Q2 2010 to Q2 2011) show that net private sector jobs growth on the year is only 264,000. Even worse, over the same period (Q2 2010 to Q2 2011) 240,000 public sector jobs were lost.
And the most recent quarters are terrible. When you compare Q1 2011 to Q2 2011 you see that 111,000 public sector jobs were lost, and only 41,000 private sector jobs were gained. Jobs are being lost at more than twice the rate they are being created. This trend is reflected in today's overall employment figures – across the economy we have now lost a net 47,000 jobs on the year while unemployment has risen by 113,000.
The labour market reality
Unemployment is now the highest it has been since the recession started – with 2.57 million people out of work, 973,000 of whom are young people aged 18-24. Across the country there are 5.6 jobseekers for every job, and in some areas the picture is even worse – in Haringey there are 25 claimants for every position. We are facing a national unemployment crisis – and it is time for the Prime Minister to stop pretending it doesn’t exist.
Nicola Smith is head of economic and social affairs at the TUC.
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