Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Unemployment Numbers

Another in the long list of things we'll look into next term in econ101b is Unemployment - joblessness. Unemployment almost always refers to workers out of work, although others have talked about unemployed houses recently, amongst other things.

But we usually think about workers being unemployed - not employed, not put to work. Every month the UK statistical agency reports unemployment figures for the UK and they are usually pored over with great interest, particularly in times like the current (will we have a double dip? Can we blame the Tories yet?) ones. Apparently the number of people being employed (hence leaving the state of unemployment) increased by nearly 200,000 this last month.

This would seem to be great news, but as Stumbling and Mumbling points out, things ain't always as they seem. Most of all, the numbers of people becoming employed are not necessarily coming from the pool of unemployed workers. Many other things are possible: People who were not previously actively seeking work (hence not counted as unemployed, e.g. mothers returning to the workforce after raising kids or the retired) may have taken jobs, or immigrants may have taken jobs in the UK (not likely at the moment thanks to the incoming government's arbitrary caps).

The bottom line is: Much of these numbers are people becoming self-employed or taking part-time work. In fact, full time employment has fallen in these latest released numbers.

It most certainly isn't a particularly encouraging story about UK Plc...

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