The number of people without a job in Britain reached 2.4 million today, with almost 1 million of those under the age of 25 – a fifth of the nation's young people.
The figures will show that overall unemployment has risen by over 800,000 in a year – a 50 per cent increase – as almost every sector of the economy, from construction to the City, sheds labour. Economists are also warning that the public sector, previously immune to recession, will soon begin to cut jobs rapidly. Analysts believe that by May – the last possible date for Gordon Brown to call an election – 3 million people will be out of work.
The Bank of England will also publish its Inflation Report today, its definitive view of the economy, which is widely expected to contain stern warnings about the dangers to economic recovery. Last week the Bank announced a further £50bn cash injection for the economy to encourage growth.
The labour market figures, which will be released by the Office for National Statistics this morning, will also reveal a growing "casualisation" of the UK workforce.
Almost a million people are working part time while waiting for a full-time job to turn up, while half a million more are temping while they search for permanent positions, suggesting that the official numbers understate the true scale of the unemployment problem. Yet the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development said that almost one in 10 employers still intends to recruit migrant workers because they cannot find British workers to do particular jobs, either because of skill shortages or attitudes to more menial types of work.
Embarrassingly for ministers, almost every measure of unemployment is now heading towards peaks not seen since the Conservative Government of the early-1990s, when up-and-coming politicians such as Gordon Brown made their reputations condemning Tory complacency over a "lost generation" of young people consigned to the dole queue. In the three months to May there were 927,000 under-25s looking for work.
Those leaving school now and belly-flopping into the worst labour market since the Second World War will also face an uphill struggle to stay in education. Up to 60,000 youngsters leaving school this year will be denied a university place according to the latest figures from Ucas, the university admissions service, which show a record 600,000 people applying to university – a rise of over 10 per cent on last year.
This comes despite many students having spent their entire educational careers under a Labour government which pledged in 1997 to prioritise "Education, education, education" – a slogan coined by Mr Brown. Ministers have told universities they can take in 10,000 more students but have not funded any extra teaching places. As a result, some – including Oxford and Cambridge – have refused to do so for fear of diluting the quality of courses.
Tackling youth unemployment is at the top of the Cabinet's agenda before the summer recess. Lord Mandelson has introduced an extra 10,000 university places for the sciences, while the Government is also targeting a £1bn internship and work experience fund at young people on poor estates.
David Willetts, the shadow Innovations, Universities and Skills Secretary, blamed the failure of Labour's flagship New Deal scheme for the current crisis. He said the number of 16- to 24-year-olds joining the dole queue was even rising during the boom years. "It shows there has been something structurally wrong with how Labour has dealt with this problem," Mr Willetts said. "This recession is turning into a disaster for young people. After Gordon Brown's promises on the New Deal, it is a bitter irony that young people are suffering."
The Liberal Democrats' Treasury spokesman, Vince Cable, added that it was "very plausible" that youth unemployment could top the one million mark today, adding that while the Government had promised schemes, many were "yet to take shape".
He also urged further action to prepare young people to take advantage of sectors recovering first from the downturn, such as construction. "There is likely to be an upturn in the building industry and there is an issue over whether there are enough people with the right kind of trades and qualifications to take advantage," he said.
The graduate: 'Why will nobody give me a chance?'
*Sarah G. (not her real name), 22, from Bromley, south-east London, finished her Molecular Genetics degree at King's College, London, in the spring. Despite being awarded a first, she said she had found it impossible to make headway in the jobs market.
"All of the employers want experience in their new recruits – how can I get that if nobody will give me a chance?
"I have been looking on every recruitement website. The hardest thing for science graduates is that there are no specific careers websites, or certainly none that I have seen. It seems you have to do it all by yourself.
"I am quite worried about the future because even the training courses I have been looking at require experience. I think it would be easier if there were graduate schemes for scientists specifically, particularly since we are constantly being told that there are not enough science graduates. I need to get a paid job to support myself, just like everybody else. But if push comes to shove, I may have to work for free. I have already done that during my course.
"There is so much competition at the moment. I read recently that, in the kind of jobs I am applying for, there were 48 applications for each position advertised. In genetics, for whatever reason, people do not want to open the door to graduates at the moment. They just do not want to invest."
The school-leaver: 'We shouldn't just be abandoned'
*Even before the recession, Mazie Adams from Hull, was having difficulty finding a job. Now, after three years of fruitless job-hunting and ill-fated college courses, she has had to go 'back to school.'
But she is still having trouble finding a part-time job to fund her studies. Mazie left Wolfreton Comprehensive at 16-years-old with "very low grades." She said there was very little advice available to her. "I'm 19 on Saturday and it has taken me this long to find a course I love, one which I think might take me somewhere. I am now studying engineering at the Career Choices college in my hometown.
"I wanted to work with animals and enrolled on a course but there was nothing to get me into the workplace outside of college. I would prefer to see more schemes like that: At my age, I need to get experience. I managed to get onto a programme called CAT.ZERO through my local Connexions branch. It is a course for young people who are unemployed.
"They showed me that there can be more to my life than I thought. I overcame a lot of obstacles and it has improved my self-confidence. I think it is proof that there may be things out there soon but we need help to find them. We need someone to guide us when we leave school. We should not just be abandoned to get on with it ourselves."
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