The hidden unemployed


The number of unemployed people in the UK fell in the three months to April, according to official figures, dropping by 15,000 to 1.68 million.

Good news, right? Well actually no – because the "official figures" are barely worth the paper they're printed on. In fact the real level of unemployment in the UK is almost three times as high as the government's figures, an analysis by Sheffield Hallam University has found.

While the number of people claiming unemployment benefit fell by 9,300 in May to just 880,400, what the government spin machine omits to mention is that the number of economically inactive people in the UK – that includes students and those caring for a sick relative, as well as people who have taken early retirement or given up looking for a job – rose by 77,000 in the latest quarter to 7.95 million, the highest figure since records began in 1971.

Meanwhile, the number of people in work fell by 10,000 in the quarter to April to just over 29 million.

The Sheffield Hallam report highlights the fact that one million of the 2.7 million people claiming incapacity benefits are really 'hidden unemployed' – concentrated in the industrial areas of the North, Scotland and Wales - who have been shunted off the unemployment register to give ministers something to crow about.

What's more, it finds that since 1997, the real level of unemployment in the UK has dropped by only 600,000, a far cry from the 900,000 claimed by the government.

The report doesn't mention, however, that most of this 600,000 fall in unemployment could be accounted for by the half a million jobs created in the public sector since Labour came to power in 1997, leading to a situation where almost a quarter of the UK workforce – some 6.8 million people - now works for the State in one form or another.