By Paul Goodman
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The most convincing explanation of why the economy's rickety condition is marching in step with booming employment is that people, in these austere times, are willing to take almost any job rather than have no job at all. As Dr John Philpott of The Jobs Economist puts it in this morning's Daily Mail, we are "in the middle of a jobs boom and a play slump", as jobseekers price themselves into work, and output remains disappointing.
The parlous state of the economy will also make Britain a less attractive destination for immigrants than it was during the Blair and Brown boom years of borrowing. The Mail reports that "the majority of jobs created in Britain over the past year have been filled by workers who were born in this country."
"It represents a dramatic reversal on Labour’s 13 years in power when there was a haemorrhaging of jobs to foreign workers. Office for National Statistics figures show that three in four jobs have gone to workers born outside Britain since 1997, even hitting more than 90 per cent at times. Of the 3.1million increase in employment since 1997, some 2.3million jobs went to foreign-born workers and just 794,000 went to those born in the UK.
The Mail quotes Mark Harper, the Immigration Minister, praising the Government's record of controlling immigration, but a full assessment would mix praise for Theresa May and her ministers with a sober recognition of the effects of the long downturn on the labour market. The impact of Iain Duncan Smith's work to get to grips with the welfare system is also being felt.
Peter Hoskin reported the employment figures yesterday evening and was one of the earliest writers to note that we're seeing under this Government what Gordon Brown aspired to during his – British jobs for British workers. But given freedom of movement within the EU, Mrs May will be constrained next year, when restrictions on Romanians and Bulgarians are lifted.
Which helps to explain why, despite my suspicion that Britain will vote to stay in the E.U if the referendum happens, I would join Michael Gove in voting to leave were there a referendum now.