Un(der)employment figures worsen

March 4th, 2009 | by Andrew Ó Baoill |

There’s something strange in the latest live register figures released today by the CSO. Not the increase of 87.1% in a single year – that, unfortunately, could be predicted. RTÉ’s report mentioned that 71% of the increase was among men.

[I should note that I’m using two sets of data here – first the latest live register figures, which records those receiving Jobseekers Benefit and Jobseekers Allowance. As the CSO notes, it doesn’t measureunemployment directly as it also includes some part-time and seasonal workers. However, insofar as we might think of these people as underemployed (particularly when we see such a rapid increase in numbers) it suits our purposes. The second set of data, the CSO’s ‘principal statistics’ for Labour Market numbers, are, I believe, drawn from the Quarterly National  Household Survey (QNHS), treated by the CSO as the most reliable ongoing measure of economic activity/classification.]

Using the QNHS the CSO has estimated the ‘Standardised Unemployment Rate (SUR) at 10.4% in January – up from just 5.0% in February 2008, and just 9.4% a month ago.

Now, my first thought was that men make up a greater portion of the workforce, so one would expect them to make up more of those losing employment. But men, in 2007 (the latest figure I could readily find on the CSO site) made up 57.7% of those in employment in that year, so they are obviously over-represented in those losing jobs.

How to measure that over-representation. I figure ‘% chance of losing employment’ is a reasonable measure. Taking those 2007 figures as our baseline for ‘numbers in employment (not precise, but good enough for our purposes), the 164,952 increase in the live register last year represents 8.19% of the total number ‘at work’ in 2007 (2,013,300). Men stood a 10.4% chance of moving from work to the live register, while women stood a 5.66% chance.

That means male workers are 77.38% more likely to have moved to the live register than are female workers.

Maybe the fact that the proportion of women in the workforce has increased significantly over the past decade or two is playing a role here – perhaps older workers were more likely to lose jobs, and men were over-represented in that part of the workforce. Looking at a breakdown of age and sex for the 164,000 people we see that men under 25 made up 14.78% of the 164,000, while women under 25 made up 7.34% (just less than half as much as the men). Of the over 25 population, men made up 56.02% of the 164,000 while women made up 21.85% – about 40% as much. So, that would tend to support the suggestion that it’s jobs held by older workers,who are  disproportionately men, that are being most affected.

But that doesn’t account for everything. In February 2007 the number of women under 25 on the live register was about 67% of the number for men under 25. Now it’s 52% – the number of women under 25 on the live register has doubled in those two years, but the number of men has increased by 168%. In the 25-and-over population, in February 2007 the number of women on the live register was 66.62% of the number of men. Now it’s 47.04%. The number of women on the live register (in this age range) has increased 73.68% in this period, while the number of men has increased by 146%.

So, what’s up – why do men appear to be harder hit by the economic fall-out, if one looks at live register figures? Are women less likely to appear on the register if they become unemployed? Are sectors with greater male involvement being harder hit? What other measures should we look at to examine the impact of the economic decline – poverty rates from the QNHS and elsewhere? The QNHS, when it’s next published in June, may also allow us to break data out by family type. Earnings reports for the public sector and construction are due out by the end of March, with ‘business services’ numbers due in April. That will give us more granularity on certain industries and sectors – though the decline is now so rapid (from 9.6% to 10.4% in one month?!) that the numbers become out of date as they become available to us.

  1. One Response to “Un(der)employment figures worsen”

  2. By John on Apr 14, 2009 | Reply

    The figures would be higher except there has been a bit of an exodus.

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