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Politics live blog: Wednesday 15 February

Rolling coverage of all the day’s political developments as they happen

10.03am: Here’s what Duncan Weldon, a TUC economist, is saying about the unemployment figures on Twitter.

Good that employment is growing, but worrying that so much of it is under-employment, i.e. involuntary part-time and temporary work.

UK unemployment rate up 0.5% in 2011, Eurozone up 0.4%, US down 0.8%, Canada down 0.1%, Japan down 0.3%. UK worst performing labour market.

9.59am: And here’s the statement that Lord Freud, the welfare minister, has put out about the unemployment figures.

The latest figures show some encouraging signs of stability despite the challenging economic climate. With more people in employment and a rise in vacancies it is clear the private sector is still creating jobs. However, we are not complacent. With more people in the labour market we know that competition for those jobs is tough and we will continue to make it our priority to find people work.

9.49am: The Department for Work and Pensions is putting a positive gloss on the unemployment figures. It has just sent out a news release saying “the labour market is stabilising”. Here are the key “good news” (my phrase) points that it’s making.

• Employment is up. “60,000 more people are now in employment than in the previous quarter,” the DWP says. “This takes the total number in employment to 29.13m a rise of over a quarter of a million in the last 18 months.”

• Job vacancies are up. “With 476,000 vacancies available at any one time, this is a rise of 11,000 on the three months to October 2011,” the DWP says.

• Numbers of “inactive people” are down. “Inactive people” are those out of work who are not looking for employment. The DWP says this is partly due to the government’s welfare reforms. “The majority of the 78,000 fall in inactivity came from people with a long-term illness or disability, at a time when the government’s welfare reforms are moving people from incapacity benefits and for the first time giving them the tailored support they need to
find sustained employment.”

• The claimant count rose by just 6,900. “The underlying trend in the claimant count looks close to flat,” the DWP says.

9.42am: And here’s what the ONS is saying about the claimant count for January.

There were 1.60 million people claiming jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) in January 2012, up 6,900 on December 2011. The number of men claiming JSA increased by 5,400 on the month to reach 1.07 million and the number of women claiming JSA increased by 1,500 on the month to reach 531,700 – the highest figure since July 1995.

9.38am: Here is the ONS summary of today’s unemployment data from October to December 2011.

• The employment rate for those aged from 16 to 64 was 70.3 per cent, up 0.1 on the quarter. There were 29.13 million people in employment aged 16 and over, up 60,000 on the quarter.

• The unemployment rate was 8.4 per cent of the economically active population, up 0.1 on the quarter. There were 2.67 million unemployed people, up 48,000 on the quarter. The unemployment rate has not been higher since 1995.

• The inactivity rate for those aged from 16 to 64 was 23.1 per cent, down 0.2 on the quarter. There were 9.29 million economically inactive people aged from 16 to 64, down 78,000 on the quarter.

• Total pay (including bonuses) rose by 2.0 per cent on a year earlier, unchanged on the three months to November 2011.

• Regular pay (excluding bonuses) rose by 2.0 per cent on a year earlier, up 0.1 on the three months to November 2011.

9.31am: Here are the headline unemployment figures.

• Unemployment increased by 48,000 between October and December to 2.67m.

• The number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance last month increased by 6,900 to 1.6m.

Here is the Office for National Statistics summary.
And here is the ONS statistical bulletin, with full details (pdf).

9.21am: We had a discreet U-turn from John Prescott this morning. He wants to get nominated as the Labour candidate for elected police commissioner in Humberside and, in an interview published in the Independent on Monday, he signalled that, if elected, he would want to get involved in operational police decisions.

But elected police commissioners aren’t supposed to do this, as the statutory protocol setting out the relationship between police commissioner and chief constable makes clear. Prescott now seems to accept this, as he made clear in an interview on the Today programme. I’ve taken the quote from PoliticsHome.

I do believe that I can express the people’s voice in regard to this community role, to provide the plan with the chief constable. The roles are clearly defined in the protocol for the police to get on with the operational job. In developing the community plan, both the crime commissioner and the chief constable work out the plan for the security of the community. That is what is in the protocol.

9.19am: The Daily Mash has a jolly take on David Cameron’s plans to tackle binge drinking.

9.10am: Here’s the Press Association preview of the unemployment figures.

The government was braced for more bad news on the jobs front today with new unemployment figures expected to show another increase, sparking fresh calls for action.
Analysts predicted that the number of people out of work will increase by over 80,000 when the latest data is published by the Office for National Statistics
The jobless total increased to 2.68m last month, including over a million 16 to 24-year-olds, the worst youth total since records began in 1992.
The TUC has calculated that unemployment could be as high as 6.3 million in the UK if a different counting measure was used, highlighting the “true scale” of joblessness.
The higher figure was revealed using an American measure, which includes people in part-time jobs because they cannot find full-time work, as well as recent redundancies, said the union organisation.
Meanwhile, a study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development showed that job prospects are set to worsen in the coming months as firms make workers redundant.
A survey of 1,000 employers also revealed a further widening of a North-South divide in the jobs market.
Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight forecast that unemployment increased by around 85,000 in the three months to December to reach a 17-year high of 2.7m.
Today’s data is also likely to show that employment rose by around 60,000 in the final quarter of 2011 to 29.1m, inflated by increased part-time jobs, said Archer, adding that the number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance is forecast to have risen by 5,000 in January, which would be an 11th successive monthly increase.

8.45am: It’s another day heavy with economic news. We’ve got the unemployment figures out in less than an hour, and then Sir Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, will be holding a press conference to mark the publication of the Bank’s latest quarterly GDP and inflation forecasts. There is also going to be a debate about alcohol. David Cameron is going to signal his suppport for a minimum price for alcohol. But a spokesman for the Wine and Spirit Trade Association has just told the Today programme that such a move is “probably illegal” and that the WSTA would challenge it in the courts.

Here’s the agenda for the day.

Unemployment figures are published.

10.30am: Sir Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, holds a press conference as he publishes the Bank’s quarterly inflation report.

11am: Ed Miliband meets unemployed young people at the Platform in Islington project.

Afternoon: David Cameron visits a hospital in the north east. As Patrick Wintour reports, he will use the visit to signal signal support for putting a minimum price on alcohol.

As usual, I’ll be covering all the breaking political news, as well as looking at the papers and bringing you the best politics from the web. I’ll post a summary at around 1pm and another at around 4pm.

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