UK unemployment, which is still as high as 1,850,000, is now starting to rise again. Combined with the jobs standstill, the lack of momentum in pay makes this the most worrying set of labour market figures for a long time. What is equally disturbing is that almost all the increase in employment since the 2008-9 crash has been accounted for by workers from the EU. Employment among EU citizens born outside the the UK has now risen above 2 million for the first time. The latest figures point to falling demand for jobs, fewer hours being worked, and little or no evidence of a rise in pay.
The number of non-UK nationals working in Britain over the past year is recorded as having increased by 257,000 to 3.1 million, whilst over the same period the number of working UK nationals rose by only 84,000. But demand for labour fell during the spring, with the number employed 63,000 lower in the 3 months ending in June than in the first quarter of the year. In that first quarter employment among UK nationals fell by 146,000 while over the same period employment among workers from overseas rose by 91,000. It also emerged that since 1997 the proportion of employment accounted for by non-UK nationals increased from 3.7% to 10.3%.
The turnaround in the labour market was expected to generate pressure for higher pay. That hasn’t happened. Regular gross pay for employees as a whole remained unchanged at £463 a week in June. However pay at the top continues to rise sharply. The High Pay Centre has just released figures which show that the salary ratio between FTSE-100 chief executives and an average worker jumped from 160:1 in 2010 to no less than 183:1 last year. At the extreme Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of the advertising group WPP, took home £42.9 million (£825,000 per week), which works out at 810 times as much as the average WPP employee.
All of this is of course without reference to the quality of the jobs. We are seeing in both the UK and the eurozone the steady growth of ‘the precariat’. More than half the eurozone’s young workers are in temporary jobs, churning from one short-lived contract to the next. The share of the eurozone’s 15-24 year old workers who are temps is the highest on record, a deeply disturbing 52%. It’s clear that the 2-tier labour market won’t go away without more incisive action. But for now the priority must be to tackle the ‘black legacy’ of long-term unemployment where Osborne repeatedly boasts success, yet is now already worsening from a total little short of 2 million.