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By Peter Hoskin
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Graph 1

After
the splendour and sorrow of St Paul’s, the realities of everyday politics –
starting with yesterday’s
employment figures
. They weren’t, in truth, all bad news – for instance, as my
former colleague Jonathan Jones points out, there has
been a rise in full-time employment – but the headline numbers are still far
from heartening. From December to February, the unemployment level was 70,000
higher than in the previous quarter. The number of young people out of work
increased by 20,000, and is pushing towards one million. Many of the most encouraging
trends

of last year have flipped, and flipped proper.


Not
that this should come as a surprise. The figures released last month, covering
November to January, were hint enough. And then,
as I pointed out most recently in my rolling blog
for the Budget
, the Office for Budget Responsibility has long been forecasting a
rise in unemployment this year. In fact, their latest numbers show no
improvement in the unemployment level until around the next election:

Graph 2

And
why? The OBR say that they put this year’s uptick in unemployment down to
worsening growth. And then they wouldn’t expect the situation to improve until
the economy returns to above-trend growth rates, which, by their forecasts, is
in 2015.

But
just because something is foreseeable doesn’t mean the Government should be
relaxed about it. Unemployment numbers speak of individual misery and, as the
OBR’s explanation suggests, underlying economic failure. And then there are the
politics of the matter. Up until now, the Tory leadership has been quick to highlight
the jobs data as a light amid the gloom – and I imagine that they will continue
to do so. After all, even with the persistent unemployment, there are still over three-quarters of a million more people in work than there were at the election. But these points can
no longer be put forward so stridently, nor without caveat.

Hence
why the Prime Minister’s spokesman yesterday described “any increase in
unemployment” as “worrying”. I expect we’ll see further Fallon-isation of the Government’s
rhetoric in due course.

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