Minister needs to correct jobs for British workers claim

3 December 2013

'British jobs for British workers' has become a timeless phrase. So too, it seems, are claims that seek to quantify it.

"It is also worth noting that 79% of the new jobs created since the Government came to power have gone to British citizens."

Mark Harper MP, Immigration Minister, 2 December 2013

This isn't the first time this kind of claim has been put into circulation, and the conclusion remains the same. It's wrong and needs to be corrected.

The claim looks simple at first. If there are 100 jobs now that weren't around when the Coalition came to office ('new' jobs) and 79 of them employ a British person, then 79% of new jobs would have gone to British workers.

But the figures don't say that.

Firstly, instead of measuring jobs, the figures show the change in employment. One person can have more than one job: that's why there are 30 million people in employment but as many as 32.5 million workforce jobs.

More importantly, it doesn't make sense to take a fraction of what's actually a 'net' figure. There are 1.2 million more people in employment since the election, but within that are people who've found work and people who've left work: 1.2 million is the difference.

So it's possible that there could be 2 million more British people in work and 800,000 fewer foreign nationals in work. There would still be 1.2 million more people in employment, but on the minister's interpretation we'd be left saying absurdly that 167% of new jobs have gone to British citizens.

It's a mistake that shouldn't happen. Back when newspapers used to misinterpret the figures constantly, Full Fact asked the UK Statistics Authority to intervene. From then on the ONS has issued guidance alongside the figures in every release:

"The estimates relate to the number of people in employment rather than the number of jobs. Changes in the series therefore show net changes in the number of people in employment, not the proportion of new jobs that are taken by non-UK workers"

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