The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has reported that the unemployment rate has risen and job vacancies have declined in every English region during the first quarter of 2024.

This trend highlights the ongoing challenges in the labour market, despite government claims of an improving economic outlook.

The analysis of official statistics by the TUC shows that unemployment levels rose by 178,000 across England between October-December 2023 and January-March 2024. The North West experienced the largest increase, with an additional 47,000 unemployed individuals and a 1.2 percentage point rise. The West Midlands and London followed, with increases of 38,000 (+1.2 ppt) and 37,000 (+0.8 ppt), respectively.

The TUC states that the UK has seen the largest rise in unemployment among OECD countries since the start of the year, with an overall increase of 0.5 percentage points. Only Costa Rica reported a similar trend, while the unemployment rate for all OECD and EU countries remained unchanged over the same period.

Decline in Job Vacancies

The rise in unemployment coincides with a significant drop in job vacancies. The ONS figures for online job adverts show a decline in every English region during the first quarter of 2024. The South West saw the steepest decline at 11.7%, followed by London (11.1%), the West Midlands (11%), and the South East (11%).

The TUC has criticised Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s claims that the economy is improving, describing them as “laughable.” The union body argues that the economy continues to fail working people on several key measures, including:

  • The period from 2010 to 2024 has seen the worst government performance on growth since modern records began post-World War II.
  • Real wages remain lower than in 2008.
  • Millions of workers are in insecure employment.
  • Long-term sickness levels are at a record high.

Call for a New Economic Plan

The TUC asserts that 14 years of Conservative governance have led to economic mismanagement, and the UK urgently needs a new economic strategy. The union body emphasises the importance of initiatives like the New Deal for Working People and the Green Prosperity Plan to boost growth, productivity, and fair wages.

TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak commented:

“Rishi Sunak’s economic boasts are frankly laughable. It shows just how out of touch he and his government are – and this complacency is costing Britain dear. In every single English region, people’s job prospects have been deteriorating – with the unemployment rate rising and vacancies falling.”

As the UK navigates these challenging economic conditions, the TUC’s call for a comprehensive and forward-looking economic plan underscores the need for strategic changes. Addressing issues such as job security, fair wages, and sustainable growth will be crucial for improving the future of work in the country.