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UK employment figures all smoke and mirrors?

As the UK unemployment rate falls, Ed Miliband is right to point to the disparity in unemployment between the north and south. If there are signs of economic recovery, it clearly isn't uniform across the country.

The headline figure of falling unemployment masks the real problem for an economy that is still sluggish and for a patchy recovery.

The unemployment rate is highest in the North East (10.4%) and lowest in the South East (5.8%). The disparities are illustrated in an interactive map showing the distribution of people receiving job seekers allowance produced by the Office for National Statistics.

It is also a distinctive feature of this recession that increasing numbers are working part-time because they are unable to find full-time employment. In 2008, just 16.6% of the male workforce had part-time employment, now it is 32.6%. For women the percentage in part-time employment increased from 7.1% (2008) to 13.5% (2013).

Millions of hard-working but hard-pressed families have seen inflation outstrip any increase in earnings, a trend that is set to continue. A real feel-good factor may be hard to conjure.

The right wing think tank Centre for Policy Studies warns the Chancellor against complacency. It makes the points that the deficit is still 'extraordinarily high', unemployment is still 'way above its pre-crisis peak', productivity performance has been poor, and many underlying structural problems persist.

Postscript

A defining and continuing feature of this long recession is perhaps 'underemployment' rather than simply unemployment with a massive increase in those working part-time. There has been an unprecedented fall in earnings while inflation has increased. Many of those with part-time employment have been unable to increase their income by increasing hours worked.

The price of petrol has increased by 54% since 2008. Hard working families have seen the cost of living increase across the board. Changes in welfare funding means that the poorest and the disabled have born the brunt of the recession caused by the banking crisis.

See also:

The disgraceful falsehood of Mr Osborne's spending review
Failure to act on corporate tax avoidance is a disgrace.

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