Some welcome news this morning with another sharp fall in unemployment.
The unemployment rate – at 5.7 per cent – is now at its lowest point for more than six years. Employment under this Government has reached another important milestone with an employment rate, 73.2 per cent, which has never been higher.
The number in employment has reached a new record of 30.9 million and the number of job vacancies has also hit a record high of nearly 720,000.
The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, said:
“With unemployment continuing to fall, wages rising, and a record number of people in work, it’s clear that the Government’s long-term economic plan to get the country back on track is working.
“In the week that Universal Credit started its nationwide roll out, these figures show that a reformed welfare system goes hand in hand with helping people to take advantage of the record number of vacancies available.
“The jobs-led recovery is changing people’s lives for the better on a daily basis. We are getting people into work, making work pay, and in so doing we are ensuring a better future for Britain.”
The above figures are from the Labour Force Survey. The narrower measure of unemployment is also down. That is variously described as the claimant count or those on JSA or “on the dole”. It is below 850,000 – the lowest level since May 2008. This is down over 35,000 in the last month alone and down over 365,000 on the year.
Labour Party spin doctors wading through the stats for bad news face an increasingly fruitless task. Youth unemployment has fallen by a fifth – down 188,000 compared to this time last year. Pay is up 2.1 per cent – so well ahead of inflation.
What does this all mean politically? It should help the Conservatives, of course. But some voters may feel that it shows we can afford to ease up on the “toughness” of the Conservatives and have some “tenderness” from a Labour Government.
However the fall in unemployment gives an opportunity to challenge that mindset. Voters might be convinced that the Conservatives are “on the side of the rich” but if the Conservatives economic policies result in more of the unemployed getting jobs does that not indicate that Conservative policies also benefit the poor?
It is also complacent to regard falling unemployment as some sort of settled narative that will continue regardless of the election result.
Consider the context of what socialist policies have led to in other countries and what has happened under previous Labour Governments in our own country.
Over the past year, the UK has also seen the largest annual fall in the unemployment rate in the G7. In France unemployment is 10.3 per cent. – so almost double the rate here. The average EU unemployment is ten per cent.
In terms of the previous experience of Labour Governments just look at their record.
We can, I think, disregard the period from January to October 1924 which was a minority Labour Government under Ramsay Macdonald as it was in office for such a short period of time. But it is true that unemployment fell during that time from 1,322,500 to 1,247,100. So if Ed Miliband wants to boast about that he can.
Rather more relevant has been that every subsequent Labour Government has presided over an increase in unemployment. The May 1929 to October 1931 Labour Government under Mr Macdonald presided over an increase in unemployment from 1,165,300 to 2,792,300.
The July 1945 to October 1951 Labour Government under Clement Attlee saw unemployment rise from 131,000 to 289,800.
From October 1964 to June 1970 Harold Wilson’s Labour Government saw an increase in unemployment from 376,300 to 578,774.
From February 1974 to May 1979 the Harold Wilson/James Callaghan period of Labour Government saw unemployment double from 612,500 to 1,218,900.
Then the last Labour Government – the Blair/Brown era was from May 1997 to May 2010. That saw unemployment increase from 2.1 million to 2.5 million.
What confidence can we have that d Miliband and Ed Balls will have any greater success in applying the same Socialist policies that mean longer dole queues in other countries and in our own country in the past?
But just as important as highlighting the threat that Labour’s anti business approach would destroy jobs is that the Conservative welfare reforms are far from complete.
For instance Labour keep saying that Univeral Credit is only applied on a modest scale. Indeed. That is why we need a Conservative Government to see it through – rather than a dithering Labour Government that would put it on “pause” and perhaps ditch it altogether.
As unemployment continues to fall Labour will prefer to talk about just about any other issue.