Boris Johnson makes false employment claim for ninth time in Parliament

21 April 2022
What was claimed

There are more people in work than there were before the pandemic.

Our verdict

False. There are 600,000 fewer people in work than there were before the pandemic.

The Prime Minister has made the same false claim about employment for the ninth time in Parliament, despite being warned by official bodies.

During Prime Minister’s Questions on 20 April, Boris Johnson said there are “more people in work than there were before the pandemic.”

This is false.

The latest figures show there were 32.5 million people in work in the UK in the period between December 2021 and February 2022, 600,000 fewer than the pre-pandemic peak. This is a fall in the employment rate (the proportion of people aged 16 to 64 who are in work) of 1.1 percentage points to 75.5%. 

It appears that the PM was referring to the number of payrolled employees which is around 500,000 higher than it was prior to the pandemic. Later during Prime Minister’s Questions he used these figures correctly

However, this figure does not cover all people in work, as Mr Johnson suggested, as it only includes employees. It excludes people who are self-employed, the number of which is 800,000 lower than before the pandemic.

Full Fact first wrote about the Prime Minister making this false claim back in November 2021. He has since repeated the claim eight times in Parliament, and failed to correct the record on any of these occasions. 

Mr Johnson also made the claim during media appearances, as did other MPs and ministers in Parliament

In February, the Director General of the Office for Statistics Regulation wrote to 10 Downing Street calling the Prime Minister’s use of the statistics “disappointing”.

The Chair of the UK Statistics Authority has also written to Mr Johnson, saying his statements are “likely to give a misleading impression of trends in the labour market.”

We deserve better than bad information.

After we published this fact check, we contacted Boris Johnson to request a correction regarding this claim. We did not receive a substantive response.

He has also been told this claim is incorrect by the UKSA and OSR

Boris Johnson stated a commitment to correcting the record on this when giving evidence to the Liaison Committee, but this has not happened. When the Chair of the Liaison Committee wrote to Mr Johnson asking him to provide corrections to the record, he did not do this and instead referenced a written answer to a parliamentary question on employment, which he claimed clarified his previous answers about employment levels in the UK.

He has still not corrected the official record.

It’s not good enough.

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