Boris Johnson repeats misleading claim on number of people in employment

23 February 2022
What was claimed

There are 430,000 more people in employment than before the pandemic began.

Our verdict

False. The number of payrolled employees is up 436,000 but the total number in employment (including the self-employed) is down 588,000.

“430,000 more in employment now than there were before the pandemic began”

At Prime Minister’s Questions Boris Johnson today repeated misleading statements about employment by claiming there are 430,000 more people “in employment” now than before the pandemic began.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show the number of people in employment has actually fallen by 588,000. It was 33.1 million in December 2019 to February 2020 and by October 2021 to December 2021 it was 32.5 million (the latest data).

The number of payrolled employees in January 2022 was up by 436,000 compared to the level in February 2020, but this does not include all people “in employment”. Notably it excludes self-employed people.

This is at least the seventh time the Prime Minister has made this false claim in Parliament. 

The Director General of the Office for Statistics Regulation has said Mr Johnson’s repeated use of the false claim is “disappointing”. 

Several Cabinet Ministers and MPs have also repeated the claim.

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.

Will you add your name for better standards in public debate?

Full Fact fights bad information

Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.