Thinktank puts unemployment at 6m

By staff

The true scale of unemployment is far higher than previously anticipated, a leading thinktank has warned.

Policy Exchange, which has close ties with the Conservatives, has said the true scale of unemployment is just under six million.

If verified, it would mean one in six people of working age are now on unemployment benefit.

The think tank put the total number on benefits like jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), income support, carers’ allowances and incapacity benefits at over 5.96 million in July.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Theresa May said: “These figures plainly show Labour’s complete failure to get to grips with our welfare system.

“Too many people have been abandoned on out-of-work benefits and now sadly the recession has made their situation even more desperate. The government should adopt Conservative proposals for bold, radical welfare reform to help these people and their families before it’s too late.”

The figures suggest Labour has massaged down the unemployment figures in order to limit their political impact.

The last official figures, from February, put the total at 5.8 million, but the projection from Policy Exchange would put it at over six million.

Policy Exchange director Neil O’Brien said: “The narrow unemployment figures we are used to seeing tell you less and less about the real number of people who are trapped on benefits.

“To get the full picture you have to look at all the different benefits, including incapacity benefit and income support.”

But the Department of Work and Pensions said unemployment benefit was a vital part of helping the country through recession.

“Before this recession began, the JSA claimant count was at its lowest level for 30 years. We are investing £5 billion to help people back into work and last month alone we helped over 330,000 people move off unemployment benefits,” a spokesman said.

“After the number of sick and disabled claiming benefits trebled between 1980 and 2000, it is now falling, with our new employment and support allowance giving people the tailored support they need to get back into work.”