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The British jobs miracle continues

11 June 2014

The avalanche of good economic news continues today, with news that the number of people in work rose by 344,000 from Feb to April – the sharpest such rise since data began in 1971.

So if you’re Ed Miliband, how do you pick holes in this? You can say that much of this is self-employment – that’s up 8 per cent, but staff jobs are also up strongly. You can bemoan ‘zero hours’ contracts, but the total number of hours worked in the UK now stands at the highest for 25 years.

You can blame Londoners, and imagine that shows the economic weight of the south – sucking the life out of the rest of the country, as Vince Cable says now and again. Not so. The regional data shows a pretty widely-shared recovery: the biggest rise is in the North East. Next is the North West.

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You can blame immigrants, and say that the population is also rising so of course there are more jobs. The important thing is the share of the working-age population in work. But that’s now 72.9 per cent, and will soon pass the 73.1 per cent high set in 1974. And those immigrants? The part of immigration that can be controlled by the government, non-EU immigration, now stands at the lowest for 16 years. Take a bow, Theresa May.

People who were not previously looking for work now are – a reflection of the success of the government’s Work Programme (take a bow, Iain Duncan Smith). Those in work or looking for it is at a 24 year high, and will soon be at an all-time high.

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The flip side, of course, is average salary  – it is rising slowly, and it may take many more years to reach pre-crash levels in real terms. This is a function of productivity problems: the less productive places are, the more folk they need to hire to do stuff. And the less that they have to pay folk, the more they’ll hire.

So Britain does have a a productivity problem. But the coalition’s reforms have meant we are witnessing what can fairly be described as a jobs miracle. The number in work is far exceeding George Osborne’s initial expectations – our work record is better than any G7 country other than Germany. Not a bad basis on which to fight the next election.


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Show comments
  • Max Tanner

    (1) Unemployment benefit map shows party political divide (The Guardian, Thursday 26 January 2012).

    “Twelve of the 15 seats with highest percentage of claimants are held by Labour, while lowest claimant areas are mostly Tory or Lib Dem seats”

    (2) Coalition v shadow cabinet: whose constituencies are worse hit by unemployment? (The Guardian, Wednesday 16 March 2011).
    “New research shows Labour MPs harder hit than Coalition members when it comes to unemployment in their constituencies.”

    AGAINST THE ODDS – Labour’s Party Political Broadcast

  • GraveDave

    You can bemoan ‘zero hours’ contracts,
    And people stuck in them have a right to bemoan (supercilious git). And remind us again – how many have found actually work in The ‘Work Programme’ other than the thousands of advisors running it.
    ‘Take a bow Ian Duncan Smith’.

    Shameless Tory propaganda /bollox.

  • Conway

    I note from reading another paper that the pound is rising against the euro on the strength of our production figures. The conclusion was that this wouldn’t have a negative effect because “overseas demand” was an important driver in exports. I took this to mean that the rest of the world was more important than the EU, but they didn’t want to come out and say so in so many words.

    • El_Sid

      As one example, the EU now accounts for less than half our car exports.

  • jray

    How £uckin deluded are you? I am doing 30 per Week MWA and considered training,just providing Taxpayer free labour. £uck You!

  • global city

    Fraser. Could you confirm or dispel the idea that, if nulabour had not obsessed about rubbing the fictitious Right’s nose in diversity and encouraging millions of new workers to the UK, then the numbers of jobs created, pre-crash could have achieved something no government has for 40 years, and which has obsessed every Leftist government around the world…. that is FULL EMPLOYMENT (or as statistically near it as possible)

  • Mike Barnes

    “Productivity isn’t everything, but in the long run it is almost everything.”

    An extra million people in work since 2008, but GDP has only just regained 2008 levels. What are they all doing?

    • Reconstruct

      Working as best they can with less capital per employee.

    • Blindsideflanker

      Indeed a million ‘hard working ‘ immigrants have added nothing, just the same GDP cake spread around more people.

      Allowing politicians talk about GDP is letting them off the hook, for they can grow the economy by increasing the population but that doesn’t read across to making us any richer. GDP per capita would be a more informative figure.

      • GraveDave

        Trouble is most of the lower orders and the working classes get their news from the Sun and Daily Mail. Not realising they’re being played by all sides.

  • ohforheavensake

    Wages rising by 0.6%: inflation rising by 1.8%. So most people still worse off.


    And also-

    So once again, Fraser, when you opine on economics you make a fool of yourself.

    • Span Ows

      Re productivity slump: yes another reason Tony Blair and Co should be in the stocks (or worse). Ben Chuhe’s article is misleading (2nd link) as it doesn’t show the productivity ‘collapse’ since 1997.

  • MK_81

    “People who were not previously looking for work now are – a reflection of the success of the government’s Work Programme (take a bow, Iain Duncan Smith).”

    This is a sick joke as well as being an unfounded assertion.

    Given the number of people who have died or had their lives destroyed by the way the Work Programme was cruelly designed and shoddily implemented, the idea that IDS should be congratulated is warped to say the least. And that’s before we get to the DWP’s habit of deliberately misusing statistics, for which they have been rebuked officially, and IDS’s preference for faith-based moral assertions in place of actual facts.

  • Blindsideflanker

    “the less productive places are, the more folk they need to hire to do stuff. And the less that they have to pay folk,”

    Or is the productivity problem a case of an over supply of labour leading to employers not having to invest capital in productivity for they can always get some more cheap labour, and very depressed levels of wages leading to a low wage economy.

    Rising wages have an important role in a market economy for they incentivise employers to invest in productivity. remove that pressure and you have the explanation why capital investment is low, productivity is low, employment is high, but with ever greater numbers of people requiring in work support from the tax payer, with the result we can’t make the books balance.

  • dalai guevara

    Two posts in as many days by the Blairite editor designed to highlight who was right.

    • Damon

      And why not? The Tories were right. As I recall, our cataclysmic two per cent “austerity” drive was going to spell the end of civilization as we know it and leave the country, with the possible exception of Henley-on-Thames, a socio-economic wasteland. Didn’t quite work out like that, did it? Yes, there are still too many people on squeezed incomes, and that’s something to be addressed. However, the simple truth is that most European countries (for instance) would give their eye-teeth to have our current economic profile.

      • GraveDave

        Well, yeah, do you live in Henley on Thames then? Because for some it has been the end of civilisation.

        • Damon

          If some are still experiencing real hardship, that’s something that must be dealt with. The best way to deal with it is by growing the economy and making more jobs. This (making jobs) we’re doing faster than any other developed nation in the world.
          With due respect, I’d also point out that the Tories inherited an abysmal mess. People are still suffering the after-effects of that mess. We didn’t create it. We are, however, trying to fix it – and with evident success

      • dalai guevara

        Why is financial illiteracy not classed as an illness?
        Our deficit levels are record breaking defit levels. Even Greece can no longer compete in that market in which we lead the way.
        Growth is inflation fuelled by revaluing of the land and property base, nothing more. There is no ‘growth’. It is not recorded.
        Jobs are made up jobs, not new jobs.
        Yes, we have perhaps not imploded like on previous occasions, but crash we did nonetheless whilst others are not only catching up but overtaking us.

        Do I really need to elaborate further?

        • Damon

          “Why is financial illiteracy not classed as an illness?”
          Shame you couldn’t manage to reply courteously to a courteous post. As far as financial illiteracy is concerned (yawn), I suppose we can leave the IMF, the World Bank, the Office of National Statistics and the electorate to decide that one.

  • Last Man Standing

    What is the percentage of real native British people in employment and unemployment? How is that changing over time? Otherwise all we are congratulating ourselves about is that the 500,000 migrants who come here every year are getting jobs while real native British people remain unemployed.

    • Mike Oddpiece

      What is a “real native British” person? Do they have to be white or just have pre-civil war British ancestors?

      • Denis_Cooper

        No need to go back to before the Civil War, having a good proportion of your ancestors living here before WW2 is OK in most cases.

        • Last Man Standing

          I’d say that if three of your grandparents were born here as British citizens then you are a real native Briton. Anywhere else in the world the elimination of the real native population would be considered genocide. Here in the UK the leftists think it is demanded as a blood sacrifice in honour of their demonic religion.

      • global city

        Could it be like ‘a real South African’ or ‘real native American’?

        Do you insist that nobody from anywhere in the world has roots and a claim to any particular place…. or is it confined just to Britain?

        Everyone else, it seems is allowed some sort of homogeneity and unique culture to celebrate and some ‘home’ to claim. What is it with British lefties and British people?

        • Denis_Cooper

          Either somebody believes that the British people have the
          right to both POSSESS and CONTROL their own country, their homeland, or they do not believe that, and most of
          our political class do not believe it.

          • global city

            Yes. Just as in deciding to pursue a deliberate policy of creating a multicultural society you have to have come to some sort of negative conclusion about that ‘native’ society first.

            I can’t stand all of the blood and soil and ancient racial purity bollox, but the fetishisation of ‘diversity’ is just as bad. To deliberately set out to engineer it, in the process destroying something else, is evil.

    • Andy

      And the jobs they do get qualify for in work benefits so that £1,000 a year tax they pay on minimum wage is really a massive cost to the state.

  • swatnan

    Sorry, I don’t believe in miracles. These are not proper jobs.

    • Holly

      These are real people, getting up on a real morning, and going to an ‘imaginary’ job, sound about right to you?
      Once you are in the workplace, real or ‘imaginary’, it gives you a sense of purpose, vital skills to successfully get the next job, and self-worth. Something the left do not understand at all.
      How many of these people do you reckon will think to themselves, now I’ve got a job, I’m gonna vote Labour so they can squander my taxes and buy a huge train set, a post office and stick a cap on any future investment in the private sector?
      Or will they push themselves to do better, aim higher, and let the ‘healing’ process of Labour’s mess have another five years to bed-in properly?
      What is a ‘proper job’?
      Who do these ‘proper jobs’?

      • swatnan

        one in which you ‘respect’ the job, menial though it may be, and the employer respects and appreciates you. The jobs being created are more like exploitation, not paying a living wage, which means that in all probablility the job is counterproductive and the indivdual will chuck it in further diwn the line because the bills can’t be paid.
        Incidently Renationalisation makes sense. Companies are being sold off to Foreigners just waiting to pick them up, like the French or Germans, or americans or Arabs , and Russian Oligarchs.
        Being in a job gives you a sense of pride and self worth; but it has to be a proper job with enough in it to make you want to stay in it.

        • Reconstruct

          The strange thing is. . . you’re not entirely wrong. Jobs aplenty there certainly are, and a combination of welfare reforms, pension destruction (thanks Gordon) and rising prices have forced/are forcing people back into work, or into finding work, or into creating work. It is, in its own way, a genuine miracle.

          It is also the only way out of our crisis. After all, the banks are bust, so can’t lend, and people are maxed out anyway, so are continuing to pay down debts. The govt inherited a fiscal deficit so large it was scary enough to stop people spending anyway, so the Keynesian way was blocked. Meanwhile, the Eurozone decided to become a re-enactment society for the 1930s, so we couldn’t benefit from external demand. So, in the end, the only possible way of resuming growth was to, basically force people into work, on the basis that ‘some-employment’ was better than ‘un-employment.’

          That’s where we are now, and it’s a damned sight better than the alternative (ie, see Eurozone).

          And it has been made possible by the extreme flexibility of the labour market.

          But there is a catch: so far, whilst labour is doing its bit, capital isn’t – there’s been pitifully little capital investment, which means the capital per worker has been falling. And the result of that is falling productivity and hence falling real wages.

          In short, we now face a ‘capital strike’, in which capital investment is, as it were, reneging on its part of the bargain, even though returns on capital stock (asset turns) are extremely high by historic standards.

          If and when that capital strike breaks, Britain will have the mother of all sustainable booms. Until then, the ‘flexible’ British worker will, heroically, have to continue making bricks without straw.

          • Reconstruct

            Forgot to add: ‘how do you break the capital strike’? Same way as you break a labour strike . . . . by bringing in new capitalists to do the job. In this case, it means a truly aggressive attack on every monopoly and oligopoly which has somehow managed to crawl its way into the economy – usually, let’s not forget, with the connivance of the government and/or regulator.

            So, if you want that sustainable boom. . . . . get out the axe and start hacking away at the oligopolies.

        • Conway

          If the jobs are not paying a living wage that may be down to two factors; over-supply in the labour market driving down wages or the fact that tax credits are encouraging low wages because employers can rely on the tax payer to make up the shortfall. Both of these are a result of government policies.

      • cg

        I don’t think you have any experience of low paid work or unemployment, have you? I was unemployed for three years and now have a low paying job. I like it but I don’t think it should count as part of an ‘economic miracle’ or whatever it is you would like to term it. It makes me a bit annoyed when people like you give the impression that all that should be done is for richer people to pay ever less in tax (which I think your post implies).

        • Holly

          Oh go boil your head!
          I have been unemployed several times, and from leaving school in ’77 my last salary was £17k(2010), NO welfare top-ups of any description. I am now a full-time carer.
          You, like others on here, do not know the first thing about me, my life, where I started out, what I did in-between, or what I do now.
          I have worked in coffee bars, supermarkets, I have been an apprentice butcher, pressed socks, and been a cleaner.
          The thing is I worked, whether low paid or not.
          That is what the Labour party took from us, the sense that work is socially, mentally, and on the whole, more rewarding to the individual well being, as well as good for the country.
          I was actually implying that, IF Labour get back in the rich will either sod off, or find new Labour implemented tax dodges like they did the last time, and the low paid will end up footing the bill, plus the huge train set & post office to pay for.
          How long do you reckon the country should have taken to get back the 7.2% plunge in GDP Labour managed to pull off, and then start to grow?
          Get over how much the rich get taxed, that is what Labour want us to think about, yet conveniently forget to tell us just how stinking rich they got while they were in charge.
          Where is all that tax Bozo & Balls took?
          Have you seen any tangible benefit from it?
          I despise the Labour party, they are second rate politicians and first rate leeches.

          • Pacificweather

            It’s always a pleasure to meet a poor Tory. Restores one’s faith in the working classes.

            • Holly

              I am not ‘poor’.
              I have a roof over my head, food in my belly, Mr H is still here, I have a nutjob dog, four cats, my gardens,with all the wildlife (good & bad) and great neighbours.
              I live in a far better ‘bubble’ than some, but in a far worse ‘bubble’ than others…..
              I think they used to call it LIFE.

              • Damon

                Three brilliant posts, Holly. Well said.

            • GraveDave

              Rather articulate for a sock boiler.

          • GraveDave

            We had a massive underclass of benefit dependant no hopers throughout the 80s and 90s, and long before New Labour were even heard of. I don’t remember the Tories back then going on about a crusade of ‘reform to give these people back their pride and dignity’. So if you were around in 77 (and it was depressing ) you’ve either got a short memory or are some sort of Tory troll making it all up. As for all this job programme bollox, it’s just another version of their ‘short, sharp, shock’ treatment for the new scum classes, they nowadays call the unemployed.

          • cg

            Good to see that you now have a full-time career in writing fiction.

  • Bert

    Productive jobs in the real world too.
    Not state funded vote bribery.

    • Makroon

      Mr Nelson should really have put up the ONS bar-chart, showing the steady decline in public-sector jobs, that is an eye-opener. Down to 17% now.

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