Election 2015: Jobs

30 April 2015

There are now just over 31 million people in work. 73.4% of people aged 16-64 are employed, the highest rate since records began.

And 1.84 million people are unemployed, giving an unemployment rate of 5.6%. The lowest unemployment rate on record is 3.4%, which was reached during late 1973. This is not the same as people claiming benefits.

The remaining 9 million people are 'economically inactive', that is, not in the workforce. This includes, for example, students, those unemployed because they are looking after the family or home, retirees, and those unable to work because of illness or disability.

Since the last election, 2 million more people are in work. This splits up into:

  • 0.55 million self-employed, 1.45 million employees
  • 0.53 million part-time, 1.47 million full time

There were approximately 700,000 people on zero-hours contracts in the last quarter of 2014. That represented 1 in 43 people in employment (2.3%). Comparisons of the number of people on zero hours contracts over time are not reliable. Not everyone thinks zero hours contracts are a bad thing: about two thirds of people on zero hours contracts do not want more hours.

Common claims

"The number of people in employment is at an all-time high"

This isn't very impressive, because there are more people in the UK. The more relevant figure is the employment rate which is now at a record high for 16 to 64 year olds.

'The rise in employment has been mainly in self employed/part time workers'

About 27% of the rise in employment came from part-time workers.

About 27% of the growth in employment came from self-employed.

The number of workers in the public sector has fallen by 0.4 million, but this has been more than offset by the 2.3 million rise in people employed in the private sector. These figures are from December, so they won't match perfectly with the latest estimates of employment.

"There's been an epidemic of zero-hours contracts"

It's not possible to compare numbers on zero-hours contracts now with numbers in the past. The figures on zero-hours contracts are collected by a survey, the results of which are affected by increased media reporting on the topic. You can read more about this here.

"Britain is creating more jobs than the rest of the EU put together"

Britain has seen a larger increase in the number of people in employment than the other 27 EU countries added together, but Germany and Poland combined have had a larger increase in employment than the UK.

Some EU countries saw employment fall in this period, so adding them together gives a slightly confusing picture.

You can find more on this here.

"People are working part-time because they can't get a full-time job"

About 1.35 million people are working part-time because they can't find a full-time job. This is up from around 1 million in 2010.

"3 million jobs depend on EU membership"

Figures from the early 2000s suggest around 3 million jobs are linked to trade with the European Union, they don't say they are dependent on the UK being an EU member.

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