Numbers on benefits have decreased overall in the last seven years, and that is good. But one has to be very careful about comparisons between years as policy changes, new benefits, make work schemes etc can hide the true level of unemployment etc.
This is why the Household Labour Force Survey is the official measure of unemployment, and is comparable both internationally but also to previous years more easily.
Lindsay Mitchell points out that while the number of 15- 19 year olds on the dole has decreased since 1999 from 15,855 to 1,566, the HLFS records the number of unemployed (out of work, seeking work and available for work) 15 – 19 year olds as having increased from 23,900 in 1999 to 26,100 at the end of 2006.
This is still a minor reduction in percentage terms, but shows that the apparent massive decrease has not happened, just that they are recorded elsewhere in the system.