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Ian Brinkley
Economic Advisor
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Ian Brinkley

So how much has employment really grown since 2010?

Authors: Ian Brinkley

12 January 2015

In an article in the Independent published today (Monday 12 Jan 2015), Professor Danny Blanchflower takes the Conservative Party to task for publishing what Professor Blanchflower believes to be inaccurate claims about job creation under the Coalition government. As with all these things, it depends a bit on where you start and what measure you select.

The Conservative Party claims that over the past five years total employment has grown by 1.75 million. This seems somewhat higher than the figure given in the Autumn Statement, which said that total employment had increased by 1.7 million since the government had come to office (paragraph 1.6). 

The Autumn Statement figure itself is a little generous to the Coalition, as the starting point appears to be March-May 2010, which with rounding up gives an increase of 1.7 million to July-September 2014. Our preferred starting point of the three month period centred on when the Coalition came to power, April to June 2010, would give a rounded increase of 1.6 million. The labour market statistics have been updated since the Autumn Statement went to the printers, but the update to the three month period August-October 2014 makes no significant difference to the comparison.

Like Professor Blanchflower, I have found it impossible to match the 1.75 million figure from the published statistics.These estimates are all derived from the Labour Force Survey, and include employees, the self-employed, unpaid family workers and those on government employment schemes. Although the LFS is the most commonly used and preferred measure of total employment, there is another estimate available called the Workforce in Employment series which includes employees (derived from surveys of employers) the self-employed, people on government training schemes, and HM Forces. This is published quarterly, and looking at the period June 2010 to September 2014 gives an increase of 2.1million.However, people would need to explain why they are using this measure rather than the LFS, other than it happens to give a bigger number for the period covered by the Coalition government.

General Election campaigns invariably give rise to claim and counter-claim and this one is proving to be no exception. It pays however to take a close look at all of the political parties claims on the labour market so we can be sure that like is being compared with like, that the measure chosen is clearly stated and so too is the time period used, and that the conclusion being drawn is supported by the evidence presented. 

I can see this being a busy time for the inquiry teams at the Office for National Statistics and for the staff of the UK Statistics Authority, who have to deal with concerns raised about the use of official statistics. And also for independent commentators like ourselves. The table below summarises the estimate for employment growth since mid 2010 from the Autumn Statement, our preferred starting point centred on the month the Coalition assumed office, and the Workforce in Employment series.


Estimates of employment growth 2010-2014

Autumn Statement

March-May 2010

July-September 2014

Change (millions)

LFS estimates

29.1

30.8

1.7

TWF

April-June 2010

August-October 2014

 

LFS estimates

29.2

30.8

1.6

TWF

June 2010

September 2014

 

Workforce Jobs

31.4

33.5

2.1

Note: all figures rounded, millions, UK seasonally adjusted.

 

Note: all figures rounded, millions, UK seasonally adjusted.