By Claire West

The number of people unemployed for more than a year has risen to the highest number since 1997, according to analysis of the latest government data by thinktank IPPR. There are now 850,000 people who have been unemployed for more than 12 months, up 20,000 since January 2011.

IPPR says long-term unemployment is now at worryingly high levels. New IPPR analysis shows that after significant falls through the late 1990s and 2000s, the rate of long-term unemployment began to rise steeply again from the start of 2009:

The proportion of unemployed men who have been out of work for more than a year rose from 25 per cent (160,000 people) in 2009 to almost 40 per cent (272,000 people) in the latest figures published in May
The proportion of unemployed women who have been out of work for more than a year rose from 19 per cent (71,000) in 2009 to 27 per cent (114,000) in the latest figures.
IPPR analysis shows that all age groups are showing increases in long-term unemployment, with the largest rises for the over 50s. Nearly half (45.9%, 182,000 people) of all those unemployed over 50 have been unemployed for over a year, up from 31 per cent (108,000) in 2009. Long-term youth unemployment is also rising quickly, from just over 10 per cent in the mid 2000s to 27 per cent (198,000) of unemployed 18-24 year olds being out of work for more than a year now.

Research evidence shows that being unemployed for one year or more can reduce chances of finding work, as well as having a negative impact on one’s health and wellbeing. For young people, the scarring effect of long-term unemployment can have an impact for many years on their wage prospects, future earning potential and health.

Nick Pearce, IPPR Director, said:

“Headline figures suggest that unemployment levels are stable, but these mask underlying trends. Many people are experiencing long spells of unemployment and long-term unemployment is rising steeply.

“Being out of work for more than a year can have a scarring affect, making it harder to get a job and as well as having a negative impact on one’s health and wellbeing. The government’s decision to abolish job guarantees for young people may leave a generation of young people scarred for many years to come.”

With no job guarantees for the long-term unemployed, a vital safety net in the system has been abolished allowing people to drift away from the labour market with little support.

In addition, the new pricing structure for the new Work Programme, which backloads payments based on long-term job outcomes potentially penalises the long-term unemployed, who often require intensive support to get back to work. This means that payment milestones may need to be reconsidered to ensure that all jobseekers are offered the right type of support.

Latest figures show that the number of people unemployed for up to 12 months fell by 56,000 to reach 1.61 million but the number of people unemployed for over 12 months increased by 20,000 to reach 850,000, the highest figure since the three months to January 1997.