The latest unemployment figures were acknowledged by the Chancellor, George Osborne, to be "disappointing". The steepest rise for two years brought the total number of people out of work to more than 2.5 million. But the picture is not one of completely unrelieved gloom.
Jaguar Land Rover, owned by the Indian company Tata, announced yesterday that it is to build a plant near Wolverhampton to produce low-emissions engines, providing around 750 skilled jobs. Amazon has begun recruiting for a service centre in Dunfermline, with 1,000 people to be taken on in the first instance. And the Royal Mail has announced its annual recruitment for the Christmas post, offering 18,000 temporary jobs.
Of course, these jobs will make only a dent in the overall figures; and some – though not all – are temporary and low paid. But they offer entry, or re-entry, points to the job market, which is not to be scorned, and evidence that the new enterprise zones may have a positive effect in existing black spots.
But the new jobs pose their own question. Are enough jobless Britons qualified for the work that is available? It was reported recently that hundreds of applicants for jobs at the new Westfield shopping centre next to the Olympic Park in London needed remedial literacy classes. More jobs is only half the equation; the other half is an education system that produces workers who are employable.