Counting Esther McVey’s record on employment

14th Jun 2019


The Conservatives got 3.5 million more people back to work, or 1,000 a day.


Since 2010, when the Conservatives entered government, employment levels have increased by 3.7 million, over 1,000 people per day on average. That can’t necessarily be attributed to any specific government policies.


There are nearly one million more disabled people in work since Disability Confident was launched in 2013.


Correct, but this rise can’t be attributed to any one particular reason or policy.


Esther McVey’s record is of 1,000 more jobs per day.


Correct, looking at the increase in employment during her time as Work and Pensions secretary, since her first stint at DWP, and since the Conservatives entered government. But the employment increase can’t necessarily be attributed to any specific government policies.

Claim 1 of 3

“My record: 1,000 more jobs per day … 1m more disabled people in work”.

Esther McVey MP, 3 June 2019

Last week Conservative MP Esther McVey tweeted a clip of herself on the Victoria Derbyshire show discussing her record at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and also summarised what she had said.

“We’ve got three and a half million more people back into work, that’s 1,000 more people each and every day when I was there [in the DWP]. And, I created something known as Disability Confident to look after disabled people and help them into work and now we’ve got nearly a million more disabled people into work.”

There are a couple of different ways we can slice this, depending on whether we focus on the claims made on the show or in the tweet. Either way the figures themselves are largely correct, though it’s harder to say what is responsible for the increase.

Are there 1,000 more jobs per day?

In the clip Ms McVey seems to attribute the 3.5 million more people in work to the record of the government, or Conservative party. This is very similar to a claim she has made before, and which we factchecked last year.

Between February to April 2010 (just before the Coalition government took office) and the same period in 2019 the total number of people in employment aged 16 and over in the UK increased by just under 3.7 million. That’s an increase of just over 1,000 people per day on average.

We also need to look at the “employment rate” as the population intends to increase over time anyway. Over the same period the proportion of people aged 16 to 64 in the UK who were in employment increased from around 70% to 76%. We’ve written more about how employment statistics are calculated here.

In her tweet, Ms McVey suggested this increase in employment was down to her own record. Ms McVey held a ministerial position in the DWP from September 2012 to March 2015 and was Secretary of State at DWP between January and November 2018.

If we look at the change from June to August 2012 (just before Ms McVey joined the DWP as a minister) to December 2018 to February 2019 (just after she left the department most recently), employment increased by just under three million.

If we look just at her time leading the department, employment increased by around 460,000—still well over 1,000 per day.

But we can’t say that all of this employment increase is necessarily down to government welfare changes, or policies to get people ‘back to work’. As we’ve already said natural population increase will account for some of this. The employment rate was also starting from a low point in the aftermath of the 2008/2009 recession.

We also don’t have clear evidence on how certain policies have impacted employment levels. For example, the National Audit Office have said there isn’t enough evidence to say whether the government’s flagship Universal Credit policy has seen 200,000 more people in work.

Are there one million more people with disabilities in work?

Ms McVey also mentions the increase in the number of people with disabilities in work since the Disability Confident programme was launched in 2013.

Comparing April to June 2013 (the earliest data) and the same period in 2018, or January to March 2014 with the same months in 2019 (the most recent data), there are over 900,000 more people with a disability in work. The proportion of all people with a disability in work rose by about seven percentage points.

As with general employment this can’t be attributed to any one particular reason or policy, something the government has previously admitted. The National Audit Office says “the evidence indicates that broader factors, such as more people reporting a disability, have a substantial effect on this measure, alongside high and rising overall employment levels.”