Official figures have revealed that levels of long-term unemployment in the UK are hitting crisis point. As the economy struggles to bounce back from two successive quarters of contractions, which technically represents a return to recession, the number of people out of work has continued to soar.
Data from the Office for National Statistics shows that 441,000 have been jobless for more than two years; a figure that has shot up by 18,000 – or 200 a day in the three months up to May. Many people may have turned to income protection insurance as a result of the turbulent employment market. Although figures show that unemployment fell by 65,000 to 2.58million in the three months up to May, some have argued that this has masked the true extent of the problem and that a number of people are employed in temporary roles related to the 2012 Olympic Games.
In addition, the fact that the number of jobseeker’s allowance claimants leapt by 6,100 last month to reach 1.6 million points to the idea that some households are still relying on state handouts for a portion of their income.
Commenting on the unemployment figures, Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey described the situation as “a scandal”. He went on to say that the situation will be exacerbated by jobs losses for disabled workers at Remploy factories: “This situation is only going to be made worse by the 1,700 Remploy workers being made redundant by the end of the year in the first tranche of factory closures.”
Employment Minister Chris Grayling, argued that although the figures reveal the full extent of the economic downturn, they still provide a reason for hope: “This is an encouraging set of figures in what is still an incredibly difficult economic climate. Not only is unemployment falling but in overall terms there are now almost 100,000 less people on benefits since the 2010 election.”
While Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne argued that the private sector was “doing its bit” to stimulate economic growth, he argued that the government needed to do more to tackle youth unemployment.
Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis also shared the view that the coalition needs to take drastic measures to address the problem of long-term unemployment. He said: “Sadly the unemployed cannot and the Government should not take comfort from these figures. The Government has to take evasive action. We need an alternative plan for sustainable jobs and economic growth, to put the country back on the road to recovery.”
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