Statistics watchdog challenges government's ‘disappointing’ false employment claims

1 February 2022 | Team Full Fact

The Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) has challenged the Prime Minister’s repeated false claims about employment statistics, responding to a letter from Full Fact.

Boris Johnson and other ministers have repeatedly and misleadingly claimed that there are more people in work than there were before the pandemic. 

But in a letter addressed to Downing Street today (1 February 2022), Ed Humpherson, Director General for Regulation at the Office for Statistics Regulation confirmed it is “incorrect to state that there were more people in work at the end of this period than the start."

Writing separately to Full Fact, Mr Humpherson called the repeated use of the claim “disappointing”. 

While there are more payrolled employees now 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.

Full Fact published its first fact check on these figures in November 2021. The independent fact checking team wrote to the OSR in January 2022 to highlight the Prime Minister’s repeated use of the claim, including during five separate Prime Minister’s Questions. 

Mr Johnson has not corrected the official record despite numerous requests from Full Fact. Mr Johnson is required to correct any errors at the earliest opportunity to comply with the Ministerial Code, which sets the standards of conduct expected of all ministers.

Several Ministers and MPs have also repeated the claim in parliament, during interviews and on social media, including Nadine Dorries, Mark Spencer, and Suella Braverman.

We welcome today’s intervention from the Office for Statistics Regulation. The public deserves statistics they can believe, and the Prime Minister must now correct the record.

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.

Will Moy, CEO, Full Fact


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