Tag Archives: claimant count

Long Term Unemployment Soars – The Work Programme Isn’t Working

Despite Iain Duncan Smith’s multi-billion pound Work Programme and extensive DWP book cooking, today’s labour market figures reveal that long term unemployment is soaring.

Approaching three quarters of a billion pounds has already been handed out to Work Programme contractors – like fraud ridden A4e or the inept G4S – with the aim of finding jobs for those out of work over 12 months.  Despite this vast sum, long term unemployment has steadily risen even whilst unemployment overall has allegedly been falling.

The number of people out of work for 12 months rose by 22,000 in the three months to July reaching 904,000, whilst the number out of work over two years increased by 9000 to 443,000.

Two measures are used to calculate unemployment.  The Labour Force Survey is a national household survey recording employment details whilst the Claimant Count is the number of people who are currently claiming the unemployment benefit Job Seekers Allowance.  Recent revelations have shown that many people currently on workfare schemes are not included in the Labour Force Survey unemployment figures, whilst those who have had benefits sanctioned are not included in the Claimant Count.

The clueless DWP claim they don’t know how many people are currently on workfare, but it is known that over half a million Job Seekers Allowance claims have been sanctioned in the last year.  Therefore any reported drop in the Claimant Count, which fell by 15,000 according to today’s figures, must take this into account.

The Government have claimed that soaring long term unemployment is down to a change in the way figures are recorded.  Previously those who had attended welfare to work schemes were taken out of the unemployment figures and started life as new claimants once the scheme had ended.  According to the Office for National Statistics, Work Programme participants are ‘more likely’ to stay in the Job Seekers Allowance figures throughout the Work Programme, meaning less people are recorded as new claimants when in reality they are anything but.

It is of course true that Labour were cooking the books.  The phrase ‘more likely’ suggests the Tories are as well, just perhaps not by as much.  What they don’t say is that the hundreds of thousands of people who have had Job Seekers Allowance stopped due to benefit sanctions are counted as newly unemployed once the benefit restarts – a fact recently confirmed to me by the Office for National Statistics.

So the Tories are cooking the books as well, just in a different way to the last government.

And even if they weren’t, and they are, long term unemployment is still soaring.  The headline figure, which reveals that 21,000 more people have now been unemployed for over 12 months, relates to the Labour Force Survey figures, not the Claimant Count.  In fact the number of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance for over 12 months only rose by about 5000 in the same period.

There have been attempts to portray Iain Duncan Smith as a friend of the poor with claims that he is bravely holding out against George Osborne’s brutal cost cutting agenda.  But IDS doesn’t want more money for benefit claimants, the families who’ve had benefits sanctioned queuing up outside foodbanks are testament to that.  Iain Duncan Smith simply wants even more money to pursue out of touch and ill thought out schemes like the Work Programme and Universal Credit.

£5 billion is set to be doled out to private companies running the Work Programme, whilst billions more is to be squandered on Universal Credit.  Neither of these initiatives will help those with least, in fact quite the opposite.  All the poorest will get is forced labour on the Work Programme and benefit sanctions under the endlessly complex new rules to be introduced with Universal Credit.

IDS is pissing away billions on his increasingly hare-brained schemes, which will do little more than plunge millions into poverty.  Nothing the clueless Secretary of State has claimed about his daft ideas has even come close to manifesting in reality, yet still more and more money is pumped his way.

Rarely has a government department gambled so much on a single politician’s delusions.  And even when those gambles clearly aren’t paying off, no-one in either the DWP or the Cabinet is brave enough to call an end to the shambles.  There will surely come a time when Iain Duncan Smith’s political careers lies in ruins due to his recklessness.  The tragedy is that he intends to drag what remains of the welfare state and the millions of people who depend on it into the shit with him.

How the DWP Manufactures Falling Unemployment Figures

More evidence is emerging of how the unemployment figures are manipulated more by current policies at the DWP than any true measure of the number of people out of work.

Already it has been revealed that those who have had benefits sanctioned are not included in the Claimant Count.  Now it appears, thanks to some sterling work by consent.me.uk, that those on workfare are counted as employed by the Labour Force Survey, the other measure used to calculate unemployment.

This follows revelations in the Daily Telegraph that a significant number of those ’employed’ according to the Labour Force Survey guidelines, are actually on Government training schemes.

The Claimant Count and the Labour Force Survey are the two measures of unemployment. The Labour Force Survey is based on a survey of 45,000 households.  The claimant count means all those currently claiming Job Seekers Allowance and no-one else.  It does not include those sanctioned and neither does it include those on sickness benefits and found fit for ‘some’ work and placed in the Work Related Activity group (WRAG).

Both of these measures of unemployment fell in the last months figures.  Both of these figures are vulnerable to misinterpretation about the true numbers of unemployed people.  The Claimant Count does not include possibly tens of thousands of people sanctioned each month.  The Labour Force Survey does not include people on workfare.

The Government claim they don’t know exactly how many people are on workfare, however all the indications suggest the number is rising.  Over two thousand people are referred to Mandatory Work Activity on a monthly basis.  Approaching eight thousand young people currently start on Work Experience or other workfare schemes each month.  Over half a million people are currently on the Work Programme, which can include up to six months workfare.  The rise in workfare is clearly one significant factor in the supposed fall in unemployment.

Similarly the number of people facing benefit sanctions has almost trebled since 2009 to approaching half a million annually.  Again, a rise in the number of sanctions handed out could easily outstrip the recent modest fall in the Claimant Count.*

Even without the huge increase in people claiming Working Tax Credit as self-employed, or on zero hours contracts, or in unstable and irregular casual work, both measures of unemployment appear highly vulnerable to policy changes at the DWP.  This helps explains the discrepancy of falling economic growth and falling unemployment.

If more people are sent on workfare, and more people face having claims sanctioned then both measures of unemployment will fall.  Since more people are being sent on workfare, and more people are having benefits sanctioned, unemployment is falling.

Correction 17/10/12:  Recent information from the ONS suggests some people who are sanctioned may be included in the Claimant Count.  It depends whether the claim remains live, many do not.  Am waiting on further information from the ONS and will clarify in a later piece.  Details of sanctioned claimants in relation to the LFS is below.

*The Labour Force Survey does not mention sanctions.  It is possible that some of those sanctioned would not be classed as unemployed – it seems that it would be based on the answers given to questions relating to job seeking activity.  Therefore those sanctioned may also place downward pressure on this measure of unemployment.

Unravelling the Mystery of Falling Unemployment Figures

Another day brings yet another tantrum from the hapless Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.  This time it’s the BBC who are the subject of his potty mouth, with his claim that journalist Stephanie Flanders is ‘peeing all over the economy’ for discussing the strange discrepancy between a nose diving economy and apparent falling unemployment.

IDS appears to think that state TV should ignore this much discussed phenomena and instead broadcast announcements proclaiming what a wonderful job our glorious leaders are doing.  Unfortunately for ministers balanced journalism doesn’t quite work like that.

The truth is that it doesn’t take much digging into the recent unemployment figures to discover that the situation is far from rosy.  The staggering rise in self-employment – 218,000 self employed workers on the year – seems to be one explanation for the fall in unemployment.  Combined with the growth in part time work, this explains much of the economic anomaly which seems to be taking place.

On it’s own, a rise in casual, part time and self employed work still doesn’t fully explain what’s going on.  The Office for National Statistics (ONS) still maintain that the number of total hours worked over the economy rose by 0.5%, meaning that even if people are pushed into insecure and casual work, the actual amount of work being done in the UK is still rising.

This still flies in the face of the plummeting growth figures.  To understand why this is happening requires something few economists and journalists possess – an understanding of the benefits system, and in this case Working Tax Credits.

To qualify for the self-employed element of Working Tax Credits, a claimant  must declare that they are working at least 30 hours a week.   This does not mean that they are earning even minimum wage for those hours.  They could be earning nothing at all.  Those on low (or no) incomes as self-employed workers will be recorded in the statistics as working 30 hours a week. So whilst the recent figures show a small rise in the numbers of hours worked, this doesn’t mean that people are actually getting paid for those hours.

Given the huge leap in those now registered as self-employed, and the relatively small rise in hours worked across the economy, this is perhaps enough to reveal that whilst people may be working more hours (on paper at least) they aren’t any better off.

The number of people without children claiming Working Tax Credits under the 30 hour rule has almost doubled since 2004 and is still rising.  There is even anecdotal evidence that Work Programme providers – the grasping poverty pimps paid billions by the Government to get people into work – are bullying unemployed claimants off the dole and onto Working Tax Credits.

This dovetails with the growth in people who are in work, or self-employed, and claiming Housing Benefits – a benefit based on income rather than hours worked.  The latest DWP Statistical bulletin shows a rise in Housing Benefit claims of around 20,000 people between April 2011 and April 2012*.  Whilst this does not represent a huge leap it must be weighed against the far stricter criteria for the benefit.

So whilst the number of people who are ‘unemployed’ is claimed to be falling, the number of people claiming income related benefits appears to be rising.

There are two figures which are key in understanding levels of unemployment.  The headline figure, which states that there are currently 2.56 million unemployed people, is based on the Labour Force Survey.  This is a large scale household survey using internationally recognised measures of estimating  unemployment and is carried out by the ONS.  The second is the Claimant Count.  This is compiled by the ONS from data provided by the DWP and represents the number of people claiming the unemployment benefit Job Seekers Allowance.

Whilst unemployment according to the Labour Force Survey has steadily fallen over the last few months, in part because of the reasons given above, the Claimant Count figures have bounced around, although the number fell last month.

For the last year the Government have been claiming this is down to the changes made to sickness, disability and lone parent benefits.  The argument is that many who were previously claiming Incapacity Benefits or Income Support will now be on Job Seekers Allowance and included in the claimant count.  As ever the Government’s claims hold little water once the numbers are crunched.

The number of people claiming sickness benefits (Incapacity Benefit or Employment Support Allowance) fell by just 21,000 between February 2011 and February 2012.  The number of those claiming lone parent benefits dropped by 30,000 in the same period.    Many of these people will not have then been eligible for Job Seekers Allowance.  Even if they were then it would only represent about 4000 people a month – the true figure is probably half that.  What can’t be hidden is that the number of working age benefit claimants in total rose by 117,000 between February 2011 and 2012.

It’s clear that changes in benefit eligibility criteria have had only a negligible impact on the claimant count.  There is one factor however which has skewed the figures considerably.

Over half a million benefit sanctions were handed to Job Seekers Allowance claimants in 2011 and the figure is believed to be rising.  This represents a tripling in the number of claimants who have had benefits stopped since 2009.  The ONS recently confirmed to me that those sanctioned are often not included in the Claimant Count – it depends on whether a claim is maintained throughout the sanction, which in many cases it isn’t.  With sanctions lasting anywhere between two weeks and six months, this is enough to skew the count by tens of thousands of people every month.  Other people are ‘disallowed’ benefits because they are judged to have given up a job voluntarily, or failed to meet JSA eligibility.  It almost renders the Claimant Count worthless, as it tells us far more about the current sanctioning policy in Jobcentres than it does about the true number of unemployed people.

Economic editors at the BBC and elsewhere have rightly focused on the rise in temporary jobs due to the Olympics, the rise in part time work, or zero hours contracts, as some of the factors behind falling unemployment.  All of these will no doubt have made an impact.

But almost a quarter of a million more people on Working Tax Credit (but not necessarily earning anything) and half a million benefit sanctions tells us far more.  Unemployment is not falling as Iain Duncan Smith claims.  The growth in hours worked has more to do with reporting requirements for working tax credits than it does with any genuine improvement in the labour market.  Sanctions grossly distort true  numbers of unemployed benefit claimants.  The number of people claiming Housing Benefit and Working Tax Credits is rising, despite stricter eligibility for these benefits.

And once again, even this month, those who have been unemployed for over a year rose, despite over half a billion handed out to welfare to work companies with the aim of cutting long term unemployment.

This Government’s policies are not working.  And no matter how they try and cook the books, neither are an increasing number of people.

Correction 17/10/12:  Recent information from the ONS suggests some people who are sanctioned may be included in the Claimant Count.  It depends whether the claim remains live, many do not.  Am waiting on further information from the ONS and will clarify in a later piece.

*Unfortunately there is a lag in Housing Benefit, sickness benefit and lone parent benefit statistics which are now only to be published quarterly.  Therefore the most recent figures are not available and won’t be until November. The most recently published figures are at (PDF): http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd1/stats_summary/stats_summary_aug12.pdf

Shock New Figures Reveal Rise In Laziness!

Some have predicted laziness could hit 3 million over the coming year.

Shocking figures have revealed that 44,000 people became lazy and workshy over the last month.  Young people and women appear to have been amongst the worst affected with one in five people under 25 now resorting to scrounging whilst 7,800 more women now sit around all day watching television and moaning.  A government source told us:

“Women have always been traditionally lazy with a history of lazing around the house drinking gin whilst men do all the work so to some extent these figures come as no surprise.  The rise in idleness amongst public sector workers is concerning and we believe is due to a combination of Gordon Brown, snow and the disabled.”

Disabled people are believed to be at the forefront of the laziness outbreak, with some reportedly too lazy to walk and many spending all day lying around in bed.

Worryingly more people are expected to become lazy over the next few months as Argos’ post Christmas reductions on plasma televisions and an improved SKY daytime schedule start to take effect.

The number of people who are lazy part time has also reached record levels.   Officials claim this could easily be rectified by forcing part time workers to work full time for the same salary.

“People must simply learn to work much harder for less or else how on earth are hardworking businessmen expected to make the kind of money they have become accustomed to.” said a Treasury spokesman this morning.

The outbreak of laziness has been condemned by hard working bankers and city workers, many of whom have received paltry bonuses this year.  Climbing into his new Porsche, one city spiv told us tensions were running high:

“We have worked tirelessly with the government to bring about the economic boom yet we are now seeing every month that thousands of people elect to stay at home and eat chips all day instead of getting out and doing a decent day’s work.  It’s all very well for these scrounging scum, sitting around having babies with their so called disabilities, yet it’s people like me who suffer.  Perhaps they’d like to know how it feels to only own three houses despite working like a slave.”

George Osborne was unavailable for comment, believed to be in the middle of a gruelling three hour lunch.  However his spokesman told us: “Gideon’s father worked very hard to get him where he is today and if the poor, idle and workshy can’t be bothered to do the same then fuck them.”