Government statistics state that unemployment is at 4.5% – its lowest level since the early 1970s. Truly a spectacular achievement for the political establishment.

You would think, then, that they would be making a bit of noise about this almost unprecedented triumph. But aside from some minor mentions, the Tory press has been oddly silent on this issue.

Even rags like the Daily Mail and The Sun, who up until a few months back were approvingly quoting government statistics about declining rates of unemployment, have revealed a previously unseen modest streak.

But official “unemployment” figures in the UK have now reached such low levels that they threaten to expose the lie used to create the numbers. The figures are now so unbelievable that they have become toxic even for the Tories’ chief propagandists.

True vs official unemployment

The reason official statistics are so far from what we all experience as reality has to do with what Jim Edwards at Business Insider calls a “fiction that economists tell themselves about the nature of work.”

According to Edwards, there is a considerable disjuncture between “true” and “official” unemployment figures. “Official” figures exclude those trapped in the gig economy (part time workers, often on zero-hour contracts, who want full time jobs), “inactive” workers who have been alienated from the workforce, people who retire, students, or those who work in the home.

More and more people are facing these conditions today.

The government would like us to believe that there is a world of work out there for the taking. It helps feed the lie that unemployed people are just workshy.

But the truth is that real unemployment is now more than four times the official figures. Around 21.5% of all working-age people (defined as ages 16 to 64) are without jobs, or 8.83 million people, according to the Office for National Statistics.

And yet it is never “true” unemployment that makes the headlines of the capitalist press.

It is never “true” unemployment that is quoted at us by smug Tory politicians.

But now, at least, “official” unemployment is so wide of the mark that even that is not making headlines anymore. Small mercies.


Originally published at Evolvepolitics on July 26, 2017: