I see from the excellent Vox Political blog that a row has broken out over claims by Conservative Central Office of big reductions in the number of jobless claiming benefit under the last coalition government.
The BBC reports a row over the way Essex Tory MPs are presenting falls in unemployment figures. The row concentrates on them using the claimant count. ( Jobseekers Allowance only) rather than the number of people seeking work who are not on benefit. This makes a huge difference to the numbers unemployed in constituencies.
Central Office defended their stance by saying : “This (questions surrounding the use of JSA figures) is nonsense. This unemployment measure is provided by the independent House of Commons Library – and for constituencies they are the most up to date and most reliable numbers to use.They are used by MPs and candidates across the country, regardless of political party.”
However as readers of this blog will know this is not the true and accurate picture because since Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, introduced universal credit – those transferred from JSA and still on the dole were no longer counted in the JSA figures. So where there are jobcentres already implementing universal credit in constituencies these figures were much less.
So it is rather outrageous for Tory Central Office to quote the very House of Commons reports that reveal this as the correct interpretation of the claimant count particularly if they only use JSA..
The very latest statistics available have for the first time started showing both but the situation is a mess as this report from the Commons library covering unemployment in February 2015 shows. For the first time it does try to show those on Universal Credit and those on JSA who are the dole – adding about 27,900 to the JSA total.
As the report says : “From April 2013, some unemployed people attending certain jobcentres are claiming Universal Credit rather than JSA. Consequently, simply looking at the number of JSA claimants in the areas affected may not give an accurate reflection of the number of people looking for work. At the national level, the effect of Universal Credit on the total claimant count remains minor.”
But given the distortion between those on the dole in the prosperous South and less prosperous North these figures are still significant. In the North West of England it accounts for another 25,000 on the dole. In London it is just 400.
To make matters worse trying to breakdown accurate figures for the long-term employed and by age group is impossible at the moment. The figures are just not available.
As the report says: “Data on the number of Universal Credit claimants who are out-of-work by age are currently not published at the constituency level. However, data are available on JSA claimants by age.
In constituencies where Universal Credit has been introduced, the number of JSA claimants may not reflect the actual number of unemployed claimants in a particular age group.”
It adds: “Similarly, data on the number of Universal Credit claimants who are out-of-work by duration of claim are currently not published at the constituency level.”
So beware of false claims and people quoting official House of Commons documents to back them up. They are not necessarily giving the full picture.