I was engaged in a twitter argument yesterday with someone who was disputing the progress we have seen in employment, putting the improved figures down to a million people enslaved on zero hours contracts.
The Office for National Statistics have provisionally estimated the number of zero hours contracts to be between 583,000 and 1.4 million. There isn’t an established data series for this that would enable historical comparisons, but there are such statistics for full time and part time workers. According to these the number of part time workers is up 356,000 since May 2010, and the number of full time workers is up 1,114,000.
Let me re-emphasise that point. Not just a million private sector jobs, not just a million net jobs, but a million net full time jobs have been created since the coalition was formed.
A footnote on sheet 3 of A01 indicates that “The split between full-time and part-time employment is based on respondents’ self-classification.” suggesting that nobody has been classified as full time who is not able to work full time.
Now an unemployment rate of 6.8% is still too high (down from 7.9% in 2010), and for 26.9% of jobs to be part time (down from 27% in 2010) when many of those people may wish to work full time, is also still too high. But the signs are that we are moving in the right direction and need to keep going.
Zero-hours has been debated before on this site, and Vince Cable has been, rightly, looking into the issue and is prepared to act on abuses. The opposition has also been making noises on this issue, largely to distract from what is overall a strongly improving picture on unemployment.
Employment up 1.5 million. Unemployment down 282,000 despite a growing workforce. 76% of new jobs are full time jobs meaning that the proportion of all jobs that are full time has increased.
Maybe we could have done even better? Perhaps.
A basic analysis would say that Germany escaped the worst of the credit crunch and recovered quickly with help from a weakened Euro. France, under Hollande, is seeing unemployment still rise. The UK has escaped the debt default fears that have hit Spain (despite a higher post-crunch deficit), and is creating jobs faster than the EU average.
These facts are toxic to Labour’s strategy and message. Understand them and use them.
* Joe Otten is a councillor in Sheffield and Tuesday editor of Liberal Democrat Voice.