“It is an astonishing fact that we have 420,000 more people in work than before the pandemic began.”

Boris Johnson, House of Commons

January 12, 2022

Facts

While there are more payrolled employees than before the pandemic, the total number of people in paid work - including the self-employed - is below the levels seen just prior to the pandemic. This figure has fallen from  5 million just before the pandemic to 4.3 million as of the third quarter of 2021.

Data from the Office for National Statistics, which includes all people in paid work in the UK, shows that this number is still about half a million below the level just prior to the pandemic. It has gone from about 33 million between December 2019 and February 2020 to 32.5 million in the latest figures from July to September 2021. The proportion of working-age people in employment is also lower than it was in early 2020, falling from 76.6% to 75.4% in this period. 

Ed Humpherson, Director General for Regulation from the UK Statistics Authority wrote to Downing Street about this claim. He confirmed that "It is therefore incorrect to state that there were more people in work at the end of this period than the start."

For an excellent analysis, see FullFact. 

Verdict

It is misleading to say that the number of people in work has increased. This false claim remains on the Hansard record in defiance of the Ministerial Code.

We approached Mr Johnson’s office, the Cabinet Office and the No 10 Press Office to give them a chance to comment, but no reply.

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