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Volume 974: debated on Thursday 29 November 1979

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asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the average percentage level of unemployment in the 1950s; what is his forecast for 1980–81; what is the difference in the numbers unemployed represented by the two percentages when applied to the present work force; and what would be the saving to the Exchequer in 1980–81, at present rates of benefit, if the numbers of unemployed were reduced to the earlier level.

The average percentage level of United Kingdom unemployment over the period 1950–1959 was 1·7 per cent—369,000. Forecasts of unemployment are subject to such large margins of error that no useful purpose would be served by provision either of a forecast of unemployment for 1980–81 or the saving to the Exchequer from a reversion to earlier levels of unemployment.