UNEMPLOYMENT figures for Blackburn are among the highest in the country ­— with one in five thought to be out of work ­— a shock new report on the ‘hidden unemployed’ has found.

The OECD and Centre for Cities ­— both highly regarded and reputable bodies — study places the town one of the worst in the country for unemployment.

Official statistics show that Blackburn’s unemployment rate stands at 5.97 per cent ­— but the figure is said to be closer to 18.59 per cent after a study uncovered high levels of “hidden unemployment".

This places the town in the top five in the country of places with the highest unemployment rates when hidden unemployment is taken into account.

The official unemployment rate only includes people able to start work in the two week following their Annual Population Survey interview and who had either looked for work in the four weeks prior to interview or were waiting to start a new job.

This definition is said to exclude millions of jobless people across the country from official figures.

Blackburn is the region with the fourth largest proportion of hidden unemployment in the UK.

When the city’s hidden unemployed are added to the official unemployment rate, the total number of jobless working age people is estimated to increase to almost 20% ­— almost one in five working-age people in the city.

Blackburn MP Kate Hollern said: “This report supports my own belief that the Conservative Government’s claims that more people than ever are in work are absolute nonsense.

“The introduction of Universal Credit as well as the sanctioning of benefit claimants is quite simply making it so difficult for people to secure the benefit support that they need that many simply give up ­— resulting in many tragic cases of real hardship.

“Whilst this may help the government’s unemployment figures it masks the reality.

“Foodbank usage is clear proof of this and I note that there have been a number of cases of individuals citing Universal Credit errors as a cause of suicide.

“The government’s benefit reforms have both failed to encourage people into work and have ultimately caused the worst poverty levels this country has seen in decades.

“This government’s record is shameful.”

Hidden unemployed are likely to be older and likely suffered the negative consequences of twentieth century deindustrialisation.

And the report says there is a risk that automation and the changing world of work could create a new generation of economically inactive people in many of Britain’s cities.

This is a particular risk in places that are most likely to lose significant numbers of jobs to automation.

Nationally, when the hidden unemployed are added to official unemployment statistics, the number of working age jobless people not in education is estimated to jump from 4.6 per cent to 13.2 per cent. This challenges the claim that Britain has experienced a job creation miracle in recent years.

The study suggests that this is a “particularly urban problem” with 58 per cent of “hidden” unemployed people live in cities and all of the places with the highest levels of hidden unemployment are in post-industrial urban areas outside the Greater South East of England.

Centre for Cities’ chief executive Andrew Carter said: “It is possible that the unemployment rate in Britain’s cities is far higher than official figures suggest. This research suggests that people in cities which have struggled to recover from the deindustrialisation of the twentieth century could be dealt a second blow as they are ill-equipped to respond to automation.

“There is still time to avert this. To do so policymakers should develop a plan for long-term investment in skills for economically inactive people, and those likely to lose out to the changing world of work. More broadly, Government should step up the integration of frontline public services.”

Jonathan Barr, head of the employment and skills unit at the OECD said: “While unemployment rates have reached historically lows in some countries, including in the UK, those individuals who experience disadvantage face entrenched and complex barriers to getting a good job, often leading to inactivity. Cities in the UK can take the lead on this important issue by better integrating the full range of local services needed to help inactive people participate in the labour market”.

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The place with the highest levels of unemployment when hidden unemployment is taken into account is Liverpool, with statistics jumping from 5.76 per cent to 19.77 per cent.