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Employment

Boris Johnson repeated false employment figures again after being told not to

Contrary to the prime ministers claims, there are not more people in work now than there were before the pandemic.

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.”

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. 

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This is the sixth time the prime minister has repeated the false claim to MPs during Prime Minister’s Questions. Culture secretary Nadine Dorries is among the ministers to have repeated Johnson’s incorrect statistics. 

Full Fact first highlighted the incorrect figures in November 2021, before writing to statistics watchdog the OSR in January 2022. 

The prime minister is required by the Ministerial Code to correct errors on the official record, however Johnson has not done this despite numerous requests from Full Fact. 

CEO of Full Fact Will Moy called on the prime minister to correct the record because “the public deserves statistics they can believe.”

“Correcting mistakes is not an admission of failure, but a way for our elected representatives to lead by example, help build trust in public life and challenge those who promote cynicism about politics and our democracy,” he said. 

This article has been updated to add Johnson’s full quote.

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