The UK’s unemployment rate figures released this morning have shown a slight increase, rising to 7.2%, up from January’s figure of 7.1%, with 1.27 million people out of work over the final three months of 2013.
The Office for National Statistics figures will come as a small surprise, as economists expected unemployment to hold steady at 7.1%.
The rise in unemployment rate is likely to raise questions about the sustainability of the economic recovery.
So why is that David Cameron seems to be celebrating the figures?
He tweeted this morning:
It’s good to see another fall in unemployment. Our #LongTermEconomicPlan means more people with the security of a wage & a chance in life.
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) February 19, 2014
It’s because these February figures are not comparing like-with-like with January’s figures.
Employment figures represent employment rates over three-month periods. The figures released today are for the Oct-Dec 2013 quarter, which is 7.2% – this is in fact down 0.4 from the previous Jul-Sep 2013 quarter.
However, the January figures represented the Sept-Nov 2013 quarter’s unemployment rate, which was 7.1%.
So while today’s figures are 0.1% lower than January’s, the quarter today’s rate refers to is actually up on the quarter that preceded it by 0.4%.
Nick Palmer, senior labour market statistician at the Office for National Statistics, explains in the ONS release: “The latest unemployment rate is 7.2%, down 0.4 on the previous quarter. This is a comparison between the July-September and October-December three-month periods. It is higher than last month’s published figure of 7.1% for September-November.
“However, it is not directly comparable with the figure published this month, as the Labour Force Survey is not designed to measure monthly changes. The main conclusion that should be drawn from these latest figures is that the rate at which unemployment has been falling is likely to have slowed down.”