Unemployment down but old and young struggle

12 September 2012

The number of people unemployed dropped by 7,000 to 2.59 million in the three months to July, compared with the previous three-month period, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS’s latest Labour Market report also revealed that, during the same period, the number of people in work increased by 236,000 to 29.6 million – the biggest rise for the past two years.

In addition, the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance fell by 15,000 between July and August 2012 to reach 1.57 million.

The Olympic Games is one of the main reasons there’s been a fall in the number of people out of work, with London accounting for a large part (91,000) of the rise of employed people.

Truth behind the stats

However, behind these cheerful statistics hides the fact that long-term unemployment among the over 50s is escalating, while youth unemployment remains a huge challenge.

The statistics reveal the number of people unemployed for more than a year is now 904,000 – the highest it’s been for 16 years – showing that long-term unemployment is escalating.

People above the age of 50 have been hit particularly hard, with the figures showing that nearly half of all unemployed men aged 50 and over (49.6%) have been out of work for more than a year – up from 44.8% in the same quarter last year.

For women 50 and above, 40.9% have been without a job for more than a year – way above the 35% average for the whole population.

Frozen out

Michelle Mitchell, charity director general at Age UK, says: "It's clear from these figures that older people in the UK who find themselves out of work are increasingly being frozen out of the labour market with limited hope of finding a job.

"With few options for work combined with a rising state pension age and little opportunity to plan and save properly for their retirement, many are likely to find themselves facing poverty in later life through no fault of their own."

Meanwhile, youth unemployment rose by 7,000 in the last quarter.

Other hidden stats have also helped to artificially boost the overall employment figures.

Xenios Thrasyvoulou, founder and chief executive of the freelance jobs marketplace PeoplePerHour, says "part-time work is taking up the slack".

The number of people forced into part-time work increased by 134,000 to reach 8.12 million.

"Over the past quarter, the number of people working part time because they could not find a full-time job leapt to the highest figure on record," he says.

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