IN 1957, when unemployment was less than 350,000, Harold Macmillan said that most of us had “never had it so good”.

If someone stood up at a public meeting then and predicted that 54 years later the jobless total would be over 2.5 million that person would surely had been led away quietly.

But that is exactly what has happened.

Unemployment in the Fifties and Sixties was relatively low. By the early Seventies there were around a million people out of work. The subsequent increase went largely undetected until the early Eighties, when the phrase “Maggie’s millions” spoke for itself.

In 1982, unemployment topped the 3m mark for the first time since the Thirties.

Unemployment did fall briefly in the Nineties and even fell below the magic million mark under the Blair/Brown reign of the millennium.

But this wasn’t the true picture – unemployment figures were masked under the failed New Deal/Flexible New Deal schemes. Similar fiddles are in operation today.

It has just been announced that youth joblessness now stands at one million – the highest since the Tories last held power. And the number of jobless is also set to exceed 2,518,000 – the highest since 1994.

Work schemes continue to fiddle the figures and JobCentres are happy to advertise jobs that don’t exist.

This may please the number crunchers come election time, but the longer ministers sit on their hands and refuse to face the truth, the more people will pay the price with their jobs.

They have just turned JobCentre Plus into JobCentre minus.

Stephen Dixon, Redcar.