“There are now more people in work than there were before the pandemic began.”

Boris Johnson, House of Commons

November 24, 2021

Facts

During Prime Minister’s Questions, Boris Johnson claimed that there are more people in work now than there were before the Covid-19 pandemic began.

When asked by FullFact, Number 10 said the PM was referring to the number of UK workers on employer payrolls which was 29.3 million in October 2021, above the 29 million in February 2020, before the start of the pandemic.  

But the number of workers on employer payrolls doesn’t include everyone in work. Notably it excludes the self-employed, the number of whom has fallen from 5 million just before the pandemic to 4.3 million as of the third quarter of 2021.

Other data from the Office for National Statistics, which includes all people in paid work in the UK, shows the figure 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. 

Therefore, it is not correct to say that there are now more people in employment than there were before the pandemic began. 

Verdict 

Boris Johnson’s claim was wrong. As so often his false claim contradicted statistics or documents published by his own government. Johnson’s misleading claim remains on the Hansard record in defiance of the Ministerial Code.

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