The problem with all this throwing about of figures is that nobody is sure what's included. "Recent figures from the Commons library show unemployment is already costing around £61billion a year. That sum includes the total for jobless benefits – including jobseekers’ allowance and incapacity benefits – and lost tax revenue resulting from reduced earnings and spending." Does it include the huge cost of the various programmes, such as New Deal, aimed at getting the unemployed back to work? I don't know. But as the article points out, the government has "promised that extra measures to offer training and advice will be in place to deal with any sharp rise." Presumably that means FND and the support contracts. So not everybody is losing money. And as Dave Osler points out on the Liberal Conspiracy blog, "Total bonuses to those in financial services reached £7.6bn in the five-month period between December 2008 and April 2009, which is regarded as the peak season. But in back of an envelope terms, you can double that figure for the full year, and you come to a total considerably higher than the annual £11 billion cost of jobseekers' allowance." In fact you can draw any conclusion you want to. The Benefit Busters programme drew an unexpected response from the Adam Smith Institute, that cheerleader for capitalism. It concluded that "Those in minimum wage jobs who can be rewarded with more money on benefits need to have their allowance levels raised so they are removed from paying tax."
The debate is welcome; but let's have the real figures, and let's not lose sight of the misery of unemployment.