OSR calls out PM over ‘misleading’ employment figures

OSR calls out PM over ‘misleading’ employment figures

The Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) has written to 10 Downing Street over misleading or incorrect statements made by the PM at three separate PMQs.

Boris Johnson repeatedly said that there were “420,000 more people in employment since before the pandemic”, however the OSR disputes this claim.

The PM said he was referring to the number of UK workers on employer payrolls, however this does not include everyone in work.

In particular, this data set does not include most of the self-employed workers, and also excludes those whose jobs are not part of company payroll.

In a letter to Downing Street, Ed Humpherson, Director General for Regulation at the OSR said: “ONS (Office for National Statistics) publishes data on the number of people in employment.

“The data for January – March 2020 estimate that 33.0m people were in employment compared with 32.4m people in employment for September – November 2021.”

The ONS stats show instead that employment dropped by 600,000 from the start of 2020 to the end of 2021.

“It is therefore incorrect to state that there were more people in work at the end of this period than the start,” the letter added.

The letter follows an investigation by Full Fact in January 2022, which scrutinised the claims made by Boris Johnson.

He made five comments relating to this discrepancy to the House of Commons, on three separate occasions in November, December 2021 and January 2022, before mentioning the payroll distinction at a later date.

On 24 November he said: “There are more people in work than there were before the pandemic began.”

A few weeks later, on 15 December 2021, he mentioned the incorrect statistic twice, saying: “We now have 500,000 more people in work than there were when the pandemic began” and “We have the fastest growing economy in the G7 and 500,000 more jobs today than there were when the pandemic began.”

On Parliament’s return after the Christmas break, he reiterated these claims twice more, saying on 5 January: “There are now record numbers of people in work – 420,000 more than there were before the pandemic began” and “We have 420,000 more people in jobs now than there were before the pandemic began.”

Now that No 10 has been made aware of this error, it is expected that the Prime Minister will correct the official record with regards to his previous statements.

The Ministerial Code states: “It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity.

“Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister.”

The leader of the Westminster SNP, Ian Blackford, was kicked out of the chamber on Monday for saying that the PM has knowingly misled parliament and lied to the House.

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