Saturday, 18 April 2015

So let's not talk about the 'jobs miracle', let's talk about welfare instead!


The latest figures for employment, unemployment and jobs came out yesterday and it's fair to say that they are, without question, good figures:

UK unemployment has fallen to its lowest rate since July 2008, official figures have shown.

The number of jobless people dropped by 76,000 to 1.84 million in the three months to February, the Office for National Statistics said on Friday.

That means the unemployment rate has fallen to 5.6%, in line with forecasts.

Average weekly earnings in the three months to February, excluding bonuses, rose by 1.8% compared with the same period a year earlier.

Growth was slightly lower than the rate in January. When bonuses are included, weekly earnings rose by 1.7%.

The number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance in March fell by 20,700 to 772,400, the ONS said.

Add to this record numbers of job vacancies and we should be looking forward to continuing growth in employment plus, as vacancies begin to outstrip the number unemployed, rising real wages.

The New Statesman, which I guess we can describe as part of the 'intelligent left', published an article (by Jonathan Portes) with this headline:

About that Conservative jobs miracle... 

Now you'd expect therefore that the article would discuss - perhaps with some criticism or different analysis - those figures I quote above. But in a long article packed with data not one word address that 'Conservative jobs miracle'. Instead we get Portes' usual, tightly argued position on welfare reform. Or in this case benefits paid to people who are sick and disabled. And as I read it, the jobs miracle (in Portes' view) isn't down to people coming off incapacity benefit - he doesn't provide any indication as to what might have contributed and seems more interested in the budget deficit rather than why so many people have found work.

For me the positioning of an article about welfare as an article about jobs reveals the extent to which the intelligent left is prepared to ignore good economic news and to poke about trying to find something wrong with what's happening out there. I find this all a bit sad. But then the intelligent left has always been a terribly 'glass half empty' bunch.


1 comment:

Jonathan Portes said...

You make a fair point. However, it relates only to the headline; and, as you no doubt know, authors don't choose headlines. The piece originally appeared on our own blog here:

with, as you can see, the fairly bland headline "welfare savings and incapacity benefits".

It was written before this week's employment stats and was not intended to address them - rather, as it says, it was a response to the Prime Minister's misinformed and misleading comments on incapacity benefits.

I have, however, previously written much more directly on the interaction between the two issues, under the headline "Welfare reform and the jobs "miracle"" here. You may or may not agree with the analysis, but I hope you accept I take the issue head on:

You might wish to note, given what you say in your blog, that I explicitly say that as far as I am concerned the glass is indeed half full, as regards employment. I am simply arguing that there is ample evidence that that has little to do with the (strikingly incompetent) handling of "welfare reform" by the current government.