End Of Signing-On As Dole Moves Online

(Telegraph) – SIGNING ON – the duty performed by the jobless to qualify for unemployment benefit down the ages – is to be consigned to history under Government plans to save billions of pounds.

Ministers are preparing to move the system of paying Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA), currently claimed by 1.58 million people, largely online later this year in a major cost-cutting drive.

The aim is to make 80 per cent of JSA payments online within months, with a view to boosting the figure over time to 100 per cent.

Parallel drives will see all employer tax returns for VAT being made online by the end of next year, and all child tax credits being paid online by the middle of the next parliament (around the start of 2013).

The biggest challenge, however, is understood to be Jobseekers’ Allowance because of the complicated nature of the current system, which depends upon regular attendances in person at Jobcentres.

Ministers are considering the best way of making sure someone is available for work if they no longer need to attend Jobcentres.

To qualify for the JSA an individual must be “available for and actively seeking work”, between 18 and State Pension age, and working less than 16 hours per week on average.

Maximum weekly rates are £64.30 for single people aged over 25 and £100.95 for couples and civil partnerships.

Signing on at the dole office, immortalised in films and television dramas such as Boys From the Black Stuff and The Full Monty, is still seen as an unpleasant, dehumanising experience although ministers claim most Jobcentres are now modernised welcoming venues equipped with computer terminals and advertisements for posts offering up to £100,000.

The practice will soon be history – although a Government source admitted that the eventual goal of paying all JSA online will not be achieved “until we get 100 per cent broadband coverage.”

Martha Lane Fox, the internet entrepreneur, currently heads a government task force aiming to get everyone online by 2012.

Currently 10 millions Britons have never used the internet – and four million of these are from the most deprived backgrounds in the country.

It has been calculated that achieving the target will save the public purse £1 billion a year in “customer service costs” and boost the overall economy by more than £20 billion.

Gordon Brown will underline the Government’s desire to move faster towards providing more public services online in a major speech on Monday – although he is not expected to set out specific targets.

In figures released last week, unemployment dropped to 2.45 million in the three months to January, according to the Office for National Statistics.

About 1.58 million people claimed the JSA in February, down from 1.63 million in October last year.

However, the rate of employment, measuring the number of people in work, also fell to a 13-year low of 72.2 per cent.

The number of people in work dropped by 54,000 to 38.8 million in the three months to January.

Unemployment Falls As ‘Economic Inactive’ Hits Record

(Telegraph) – THE NUMBER OF UNEMPLOYED PEOPLE in Britain dropped to 2.45 million, however the good news was dampened by the number of people out of the workplace hitting a record high.

Unemployment fell for the third month in a row, dropping by 33,000 between November last year and January. It has yet to breach the symbolic 2.5 million mark, let alone the 3 million barrier that haunted the recessions of the early 1990s and 1980s.

However, economists immediately expressed caution about the monthly figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Though there were 33,000 fewer people out of work, they were trumped by a significant jump in the number of so-called “economically inactive” adults – those that have either chosen not to or given up looking for a job. They include students, parents staying at home to look after children, long-term sick, and the “discouraged”, a euphemistic term used by the ONS to describe those that have given up the struggle to find a job.

In all, those economic inactive jumped by 149,000 over the last three months to hit 8.16 million, the highest since the ONS started recording this measure in 1971.

The biggest rise is down to the increase in students, with nearly 100,000 deciding to study in the last three months.

John Philpott, the leading employment economist, at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development said: “Unemployment is sharply down, however you measure it. Yet there are also 54,000 fewer people in work, with full-time jobs particularly hard hit. The apparent paradox is explained by a very sharp rise of 149,000 in the number of economically inactive people, with the number of students surging by 98,000. Jobless young people are thus turning to study in their thousands to avoid the dole.”

Added to the economically inactive, were a further 1.04 million part-time workers that were on reduced hours because they could not find a full-time job.

Experts also pointed out that the only jobs being created were in the public sector, with 22,000 created by central government, mostly in the NHS. Ironically, one of the biggest institutions hiring new workers are Jobcentres, which took on 2,250 new workers in the last three months.

In contrast, employment in the public sector fell by 61,000.

Mr Philpott added: “Whether or not benign headline jobless figures limit the potency of unemployment as a vote clinching issue in the forthcoming General Election campaign, whoever forms the next Government will face a Herculean task in its efforts to return the UK economy to full employment within this decade.“

Yvette Cooper, the Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “The fall in unemployment for the third month in a row is very welcome, but we should remain cautious.

“We’re not out of the woods yet and we are still determined to do more to support jobs and help the unemployed this year.”

Unemployment Claimant Count Rises Again

(Guardian) – GORDON BROWN’S EFFORTS to win the next general election received a blow today after official figures showed that the number of Britons claiming unemployment benefit rose unexpectedly in January to the highest level since Labour came to power.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that the number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) rose by 23,500 in January, compared with a fall of 9,600 in December. This is the largest monthly rise in the claimant count since last July, and takes the total number of people receiving unemployment benefit to 1.64 million, the highest figure since April 1997.

Economists had expected the claimant count to fall by 10,000 in January as the UK economy struggled out of recession, after falling in November and December.

The ILO – the wider measure of unemployment – fell by 3,000 in the three months to December to 2.457 million. The jobless rate now stands at 7.8%.

Howard Archer, economist at IHS Global Insight, said the rise in the claimant count was a “reality check” that dashed any hopes that unemployment had peaked.

“The economy is just not strong enough at this stage to prevent further job losses and the fall in unemployment late in 2009 had masked the fact that full-time employment was still falling appreciably,” said Archer.

Ross Walker, an economist at RBS Financial Markets, agreed.

“The fact that the claimant count was falling in recent months was the huge surprise. The fact that we have got a rise is not particularly surprising. It seems to fit more with the underlying reality,” Walker said.

Yvette Cooper, the work and pensions secretary, said that the government’s actions have helped to keep the unemployment total almost half a million lower than the National Audit Office predicted last year.

“We always knew it would be difficult in the new year, and said that we expected unemployment to keep rising,” Cooper told the BBC.

Separately, the ONS said yesterday that underemployment has risen sharply during the recession, according to separate ONS figures.

About 2.8 million people were officially underemployed – defined as working fewer hours than they want to – between July and September 2009, which equates to nearly 10% of those in employment. The number went up by 700,000 from a year earlier. This is in addition to the 2.6 million out of a job.

Youth Unemployment Hits Record High

(Independent) – YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT reached a record high today as the jobless total nudged 2.5 million, the worst total since the mid-1990s.

The number of 16 to 24-year-olds out of work was 952,000 in the three months to October, a quarterly rise of 6,000 and the highest figure since records began in 1992.

Total unemployment increased by 21,000 to 2.49 million, the highest level since early 1995, although the quarterly rise was the smallest for 18 months.

There was some good pre-Christmas news for the Government in today’s figures, which showed the first fall in the number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance since February last year.

The total fell by 6,300 to 1.6 million, more than half a million higher than a year ago.

Other data from the Office for National Statistics showed that the number of people out of work for more than a year increased by 49,000 in the latest quarter to 620,000, the worst total since 1997.

Unemployment among 18 to 24-year-olds was 757,000, up by 26,000 from the three months to July, the highest since 1993.

The UK’s unemployment rate has now reached a 13-year high of 7.9 per cent.

The number of people in work increased by 53,000 to almost 29 million, although the figure is 432,000 lower than a year ago.

There were 30 million jobs in the economy in September, down by 127,000 over the quarter and 649,000 fewer than a year ago.

The number of people classed as economically inactive, including those on long-term sickness or who have given up looking for a job, was 7.9 million, down by 1,000 over the three months but up by 96,000 compared to last year.

More than one in five working-age people are now economically inactive.

Average earnings increased by 1.5 per cent in the year to October, up by 0.1 per cent on the previous month.

The ONS also revealed today that public sector employment increased by 23,000 in the third quarter of the year to just over six million.

Employment in central government rose by 31,000, mainly because of growth in the NHS.

There were 432,000 job vacancies in the economy in the three months to November, up by 1,000 from the quarter to August but down by 124,000 from a year earlier.

[In Castle Point the claimant count was up 63.1 per cent in October on the same time last year, by 669 to 1,814. This figure was down 4.6 per cent over the previous month.]

Brown To Give Job Guarantee To All 18 To 24-Year-Olds

(Telegraph) – MORE THAN 150 COMPANIES and other organisations have signed up to Gordon Brown’s drive to help find jobs or training for young people suffering from the ravages of unemployment.

Firms including the Royal Mail, Microsoft, Pfizer, Phones4U, Centrica and Morrisons will provide apprenticeships, work or training.

The Prime Minister is set to detail plans to guarantee a job for anyone aged between 18 and 24 who has been out of work for 10 months, rather than a year as previously planned.

The move follows calls from unions and business groups for ministers to do more to help jobless youngsters, such as expanding the apprenticeship programme and creating more work experience and internship opportunities across Britain.

Official figures have revealed that the jobless rate among 16 to 24-year-olds has soared to almost 20 per cent, with more than 920,000 classed as unemployed, and the number surging towards the politically sensitive one million mark.

Yvette Cooper, the Work and Pensions Secretary, said the main point of the Government’s move, and previously-announced measures, was to make sure Britain did not return to the 1980s, when young people were out of work for years.

The Government was ‘determined’ to guarantee work, training or other employment options to young people, she said.

Most young people found work or training within three months of being unemployed, the minister said.

She maintained there were more than 70,000 vacancies in the retail sector alone; but acknowledged that young people were often overlooked in favour of more experienced candidates.

‘That is why we have to give them the first step on the jobs ladder,’ she told BBC Radio 5 Live.

‘Young people have a harder time when there is an economic downturn; but we are now prepared to put extra investment in.’

Ministers are drawing up a ‘back to work’ White Paper, which is expected to give more details on how unemployment is hitting the economy and measures to tackle the problem.

Plans being outlined by Mr Brown include training for young people in potential growth industries such as retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism.

Campaign group Youth Fight for Jobs, backed by a number of leading trade unions, is staging a demonstration against rising youth unemployment in London on November 28, and a lobby of Parliament, to mark the next set of unemployment figures, later this month.

The Government has been pressing employers to offer more jobs, apprenticeships and work placements to youngsters suffering from the rising tide of unemployment, which increased to 2.4 million last month.

… (10/09/2009) – Lib Dems Call To Abandon VAT Cut To Help Jobless Young

UK Jobless Reaches 12 Year High

Unemployment Figures(BBC) – UK UNEMPLOYMENT ROSE to 2.261 million in the three months to April, the highest since November 1996, the Office for National Statistics said.

The jobless rate rose to 7.2%, the highest since July 1997.

The number of people claiming unemployment benefit rose by 39,000 in May.

Young people have been hard-hit by the recession, with the unemployment rate for 18-24 year olds now at 16.6%.

The claimant count rate rose to 4.8%, the highest since November 1997.

The number of people in work fell by 271,000 over the three months to 29.11 million, the biggest quarterly drop since comparable records began in 1971.

The number of vacancies fell from 659,000 in May 2008 to 424,000 in May this year — a 35.6% drop.

… (23/06/2009) – Most Firms In Pay And Recruitment Freeze

UK Jobless Reaches 2.22 Million

(BBC) – THE OFFICE FOR NATIONAL STATISTICS (ONS) revealed that the number of people out of work in the UK rose by 244,000 — to 2.22 million in the first three months of this year.

Unemployment trendsThe jobless rate rose from 6.7% to 7.1%, whilst unemployment benefit claimants, in April, rose 57,100 to 1.51 million.

The quarterly rises in the jobless rate, and the headline figure, were the biggest since 1981.

‘Unemployment is the country’s number one emergency and the government must use all possible means to address it,’ said Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC.

‘Some people in the City are already talking of recovery; but the only recovery in the real world will be when unemployment starts to fall.’

… (13/05/2009) – Inquiry Launched Into Jobs Data Leak