Boris Johnson has again repeated false claims about employment numbers despite the official statistics watchdog telling him they are wrong.
The prime minister and his ministers have repeatedly said there are more people in work than there were before the pandemic. In a bid to stop this happening, the Office for Statistics Regulation sent a letter to Downing Street on Tuesday confirming the claim was “incorrect”.
But during Prime Minister’s Questions the prime minister again made the claim. In response to a question from Keir Starmer about tax rises, Johnson listed how his government was helping people with the cost of living, adding: “And above all, the most important thing that we are doing is helping people into work – 500,000 people off welfare into work under our Way to Work scheme. More people in work now than before the pandemic began.”
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He also said: “There are 420,000 more on the payroll than there were before the pandemic began, because we’ve had the fastest exit from Covid of any European economy.”
While there are more payrolled employees at present than in March 2020, “the total number of people in paid work, including the self-employed, is below the level seen just prior to the pandemic,” independent fact checking organisation Full Fact has said.
“I really despair at this continued use of PAYE figures as ‘showing record employment‘ – e.g. prime minister leaning heavily on it at PMQs today. We do not have ‘record employment’. It’s 600k lower than pre-pandemic, and the recovery is stalling,” tweeted Tony Wilson, director of Institute for Employment Studies, two weeks ago.