Kwasi Kwarteng wrong on ‘record unemployment’ under Labour

4 October 2022
What was claimed

When the Conservative party came into government it was met with record unemployment.

Our verdict

False. Unemployment was 7.9% when the Conservatives entered office, four points lower than in 1984, the record high according to comparable data.

“When this party came into government we were met with the full force of Labour’s economic incompetence: no money left; taxes raised; record unemployment.”

In his speech at the Conservative party conference, chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng said that the Conservatives entered government at a time of “record unemployment”.

This is not correct. Unemployment was increasing when Labour left government in 2010, but it did not reach record levels.

The highest level of unemployment since comparable records began in 1971 was recorded in 1984, when the UK unemployment rate peaked at 11.9%, or 3.278 million people aged 16+, in the three months to May. During this period, Margaret Thatcher (Conservative) was prime minister.

The unemployment rate fell during the late 1980s before increasing in the early 1990s, peaking again at 10.7% in the winter of 1992/93, with 3.023 million people unemployed. During this period, Sir John Major (Conservative) was prime minister.

By comparison, when Labour left government in May 2010 the unemployment rate stood at 7.9%—four percentage points lower than the record level— with 2.508 million people unemployed. It then rose to 8.5% in 2011, before falling to near-record lows, and at the start of this summer was recorded at 3.6%. 

Full Fact has contacted the Conservative Party for comment.

Image courtesy of Chris McAndrew

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After we published this fact check, we contacted Kwasi Kwarteng to request a correction regarding this claim.

He did not respond.


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