That was the message of a new report on the recession from the TUC. It compares data from the current recession with the 1980s and 1990s and states, “Unemployment increases were far greater in the 1980s than the 1990s, but in both recessions unemployment levels continued rising for at least a year after GDP started to increase and remained above pre-recessionary levels for years to come.”
In fact the report shows that “green shoots”, in the form of a recovery in GDP, were seen in the third quarter of 1981 and the first quarter of 1992 – “but in each case this was more like a halfway mark than the beginning of the end”. In the case of the recession of the 1980s, unemployment levels did not return to their pre-recession level at any time before the next recession in the 1990s.
Looking at the first four quarters of rising unemployment during each recession, the TUC has calculated that the rate of unemployment has increased faster during this recession (30 percent) than in the 1990s recession (22 percent) and the 1980s recession, when the rate of increase was 29 percent.
This is a bleak prospect when the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show unemployment in Britain rose to 2.26 million in the three months to April, the highest since November 1996. This is a jobless rate of 7.2 percent, the highest since July 1997.
The drop in the number of people in work over the three months was the biggest quarterly drop since comparable records began in 1971. The number of people in work fell by 271,000 to 29.11 million.
Young people have been particularly hard hit by the recession – their unemployment rates have risen more quickly than the national rate. In the three months to April, 462,000 people aged 16 and 17 were in employment, 16.5 percent less than in the same period a year earlier.
In the same three months 3.5 million people in the 18 to 24 age range were in employment, down 4.8 percent from the same period a year earlier. The unemployment rate in that age group was 16.6 percent, the highest it has been since 1993. In Wales around half of all unemployed people are under 25 according to the ONS.
The impact of the recession is not evenly spread geographically. The TUC also revealed the regional variations in the rise of unemployment. Areas of high deprivation are losing jobs at a faster rate than other areas. Areas like the North East, the West Midlands and Yorkshire and Humber have the highest increase in “claimant rates” at between 2.2 percent and 2.5 percent compared to a national rate of 1.8 percent.
These figures paint a picture of the human cost of the recession that is borne by those who have least even when the system is booming. For the politicians and bosses the only “green shoots” that they are interested in are those that signal a return of their profits. It’s clear that whatever the economic indicators the fight to defend jobs is far from over.
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