THE quarterly figures for the labour market released by the Office for National Statistics, (ONS), on 16 March covering the three months to January 2011 show an increase of 27,000 people unemployed to reach a total of 2.53 million. This is the highest level of unemployment in the UK since 1994.
Alarmingly, the rate of youth unemployment has continued to rise from what were already historically high levels. Last month Solidarity highlighted the employment crisis blighting our young folk and called on the government to take urgent action to tackle it, (see the article Government Figures Reveal true level of the Youth Unemployment Crisis posted on our news page). The latest figures show that the rate of unemployment amongst 16-24 year olds rose by 30,000 during the quarter to stand at 974,000 or 20.6% of this age group.
Another age related statistic that might be cause for concern is that the number of people in employment aged 65 and over increased by 56,000 to total 900,000 which is the highest figure since records began recording this specific age group in 1992. Now of course many people over 65 will choose to continue working because, for example, they enjoy their jobs or that it helps them keep fit, active and in touch with friends and colleagues. A more worrying scenario, however, is that with falling pension annuity rates and the ending of many quality occupational pension schemes it could be that many of pension age are being compelled to continue working and cannot afford to retire.
The report ends by stating that the earnings annual growth rate during this quarter increased from 1.8% to 2.3%. Does this represent some good news for the working population for a change? Perhaps, but as the report notes: “This increase in the whole economy annual growth rate for total pay was mainly driven by bonus payments in the finance and business services sector”. Nice to know that the bankers, the authors of our present economic turmoil, are still coining it in despite the chaos that they have caused for the rest of us!