Millions more people in Britain are without a job than shown by official unemployment figures, according to a study that suggests the jobless rate should be almost three times higher.

According to research from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Centre for Cities thinktank, large levels of “hidden” unemployment in towns and cities across Britain are excluded from the official government statistics.

The study found that more than 3 million people are missing from the headline unemployment rate because they report themselves as economically inactive to government labour force surveys, saying that they believe no jobs are available.


Unemployment is not having a job and desiring one sufficiently to go look for one.

Not economically active is not desiring a job sufficiently to go look for one.

We collect figures on this:


Claiming that people without a job are unemployed is wrong. Because our definition insists that they must desire one sufficiently to be looking for one.

Worth noting two other things here. Even if we accept that definition being used, it’s still true that the level of such unemployment is the lowest it’s ever been. Because that employment to population ratio is higher than since we started measuring it.

That is, we’re getting the labour market right even by this critique.

Oh, and from the report:

While the UK has one of the lowest levels of economic inactivity across the OECD

We’re getting the labour market right even by the standards of this report……

15 thoughts on “Sigh”

  1. Bloke in North Dorset

    Didn’t UK get castigated a few years ago for not using the ILO approved method of defining unemployment and changed its methods to the approved model? There’s no pleasing some people.

    Anecdote alert ‘n’ all that. That’s me: not working, not registered unemployed, not drawing pension or other benefits. If I was offered an interesting project over winter by and old client, or even new one, I might be interested if it meant I could work mostly from home, but that’s unlikely. A friend has just sold his small business and is now in a similar position and another one hasn’t worked for about 5 years, but his State pension kicks in soon.

    I suspect the key to that 3 million figure is that most of them will be 55+ and not interested in working.

    And they’re going to have to change the age range soon, because I and anyone younger don’t draw a state pension until 67 or even older.

  2. BiND neatly sums up my situation too.

    Isn’t there a Can’t Be Arsed category ?

    I also live in a house far too big for me, so unless I organise a Thai/Russian bride – I shall live off of its proceeds when the time comes to sell.

  3. Expect this sort of stuff to mysteriously disappear once Labour are in office again.

    Oh, and despite reporting that “millions believe no jobs are available”, expect the same Globalist political agitators, sorry, Economic Think Tanks, to make the case next week that mass immigration is necessary because there are millions of jobs that need doing.

    It is the classic Lefty paradox:

    1. Mass immigration is needed because there are millions of job vacancies
    2. We have mass unemployment because capitalism has failed and there are no jobs

    The Left seems to hold these two opinions simultaneously, which suggests an advanced level of mental illness on their part.

  4. BiND

    You can add me to that category too: unless it’s really interesting/lucrative I’m not going to bother. Still, good to see that the Guardian is concerned for me.

  5. The alleged shortage of work didn’t present a problem when I was in my late 60s and the unemployment rate (on any consistent definition) has fallen since then. (I am sure that I am a victim of age discrimination but since I am self-employed I can’t sue anyone.)

    The Grauniad’s first sentence is perfectly true: all those retired, attending kindergarten, taking a “Gap Year” at their parents’ expense, chronically sick … are without jobs. But that isn’t what the unemployment rate means – it is those who want jobs and don’t have them and “want” is defined as “want enough to sign on at the Jobcentre”.

  6. Presumably this figure can be reduced by forcing those who don’t want to work and don’t have to work to get a job? Progressive!

  7. @j77

    Your ability to find a job is quite different to the ability of some of these other people to find a job, because you were operating in a different end of the market. There are still many people who believe they won’t be able to find a job even in the current apparently benign conditions and have indeed given up looking for one.

    That includes folk who were long-term unemployed (ten years of failing to find a job would make most people give up, I think, and the bigger the gap on the CV the harder it gets), people who have characteristics that make finding a suitable job difficult (physical or learning disability, criminal conviction, crazy schedule of child care or elderly care), people who are in unemployment blackspots (still plenty of them about) who can’t or don’t want to move…

    My macro textbook pointed out that there was quite large quarterly churn between and within categories – not just between unemployment and employment, but from one job to another, from jobs to exiting the labour force altogether (eg retirees) and from outside the labour force to a job (eg graduates getting their first job, or an early retiree being tempted back for a project). Even with no job involved, there is also considerable movement back and forth between “out of the labour force” and “unemployed”. If wages are rising and the chances of finding a job are good, it does encourage people to start looking again; if confidence in the economy is low or other more interesting things to do with your life become available (I have read several papers exploring the effect of increasingly immersive video games on the willingness of young men to search for jobs) then it does tend to discourage people from job-seeking.

    As Tim says, all very standard economics and not “hidden unemployment” under the standard definitions. Arguably it would help if we broke down the “out of the labour force” category in finer detail to examine the discouraged worker effect, but doing so would really require examining psychological motivations and the edges would be very blurry – eg someone who says they’re not looking for job because it would be too hard to arrange childcare might develop interest in looking for one if a high-wage employer was opening a lot of jobs up in the town and this made arranging childcare worth the effort, so you could argue the toss whether this person is really outside the labour force because of childcare or whether they’re actually “hidden unemployed” (scare quotes) because they would deep down like a job albeit only one that meets their strict requirements.

  8. @ Rob
    Good point – recent complaints in some lefty MSM that fruit and veg left rotting in the fields for lack of pickers so “we need more non-EU temporary immigrants under a scheme that was scrapped half-a-dozen years ago”

  9. @ MBE
    Yes, you are quite right: I just wanted to counter the Grauniad’s attempt to pretend that the eeevil Tories are hiding a vast hidden rise in unemployment since 2010.

    The unemployment blackspots are a multiple cause of unemployment, whether “hidden” or reported because getting a job outside easy-ish commute (that often means cycle range) would involve abandoning parental responsibilities either through living in digs five nights a week or getting home after the kids are in bed – moving home only works if both parents get jobs in the same area *and there is somewhere to move to* [especially difficult for homeowners in an unemployment blackspot where house prices are a small fraction of those in high employment areas].

  10. Even when I was unemployed and signing on I wasn’t in the statistics ‘cos the stats were “unemployed and in receipt of benefits”. I didn’t get benefits, so I wasn’t “unemployed” even though I had no employment and was seeking work. (I had sufficient zero-hours work to cancel my JSA, but insufficient to build up any NIs or to be predictable enough to sign off.)

    Since paying off (most of) my mortgage I signed off, and so am now completely outside the stats even though my average employment is unchanged.

  11. BiND, mee too. Now 65, state pension starts in 326 days. Nominally self-employed, a small occupational pension paid at 60, a bit of downsizing: if anyone would like to pay me to do something interesting and useful that would be very nice but otherwise I have lots of better things to do

  12. Despite 5 disabilities and being banned from driving the rest of my life I don’t find there’s a shortage of jobs.
    Shortage of jobs I can do yes, shortage of jobs where I get a job interview yes, but not as such a shortage of jobs.
    I read hundreds of job details for jobs within a few miles of my house. Per week. Tons of council jobs, tons of office jobs. Probably tons of industrial jobs and technical jobs too but I don’t bother looking for those.

    My wife went looking for work about 3 years ago. Took her 20 minutes to find a job, she’s still in it now. The company she’s at often has vacancies, they are forever taking on agency staff to be permanent staff. But lots of competition in this area for similar jobs in a small area.

    Technically I’m economically inactive. I’m looking for work but not on benefits and meantime working for my own company. And looking for part time work indoors with no heavy lifting.

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