What’s happened to employment since the vote to leave the EU?

Published: 21st May 2018

In brief

Claim

Before the EU referendum George Osborne claimed up to 820,000 jobs could be lost within two years if Britain chose to leave.

Conclusion

Correct. Mr Osborne did claim this. He was referring to Treasury analysis which said the worst case scenario following a leave vote could increase the number of unemployed people by 820,000.

 

More foreigners have jobs than before the EU referendum.

 

Correct, the number of people born outside the UK in employment has increased over the past two years.

 

A record number of Britons are now in work.

 

Correct. Around 32 million people are in work, the highest since records began. Around 76% of all adults aged 16-64 are in work.

Claim 1 of 3

“…a record number of Britons are now in work and more foreigners have jobs than before the referendum… Before the vote George Osborne claimed up to 820,000 jobs could be lost within two years if Britain chose to leave.”

Daily Mail, 16 May 2018

Correct. More Britons are in work now than at any time since records began. In the first three months of this year about 32 million people over the age of 16 were in work.

Similarly the employment rate was also at its highest—around 76% of UK adults aged 16 to 64 were employed (or around 31 million).

Just before the referendum (from April-June 2016), the employment rate for people aged 16 to 64 was about 74%.

The employment rate has also increased among people aged 16 to 64 born overseas (both from other EU countries and the rest of the world). It was 72% before the referendum and was almost 74% at the start of this year. The proportions are the same when looking at people with citizenship of other EU countries and the rest of the world.

The total number of over 16 year olds born outside the UK in work has increased by around 390,000 from January-March 2016 to January-March 2018.

These figures on employment by country of birth aren’t adjusted to take account of the fact that employment generally rises and falls at different times of the year, so the ONS say it is best practice to compare the same time of the year. That’s why we’ve compared the numbers from January-March 2016, rather than from April-June 2016, directly before the referendum  

Increased employment contrasts with some predictions that a vote for leave in the EU referendum would increase unemployment. Before the referendum, the then-Chancellor George Osborne said that “across Britain as many as 820,000 jobs could be lost.” He was quoting Treasury analysis which said that the number of unemployed people would increase by that number in the two years following a vote to leave.

That’s not the same as the number of jobs as one person can have more than one job.

The Treasury analysis estimated that under different scenarios following a vote to leave between 520,000 (in a “shock scenario”) and 820,000 (in a “severe shock scenario”) more people would be unemployed by June 2018.

The number of unemployed people over 16 and actively seeking work in the last four weeks has decreased by around 216,000 since April-June 2016.

That means about 4% of over 16s, who are seeking and able to work, were unemployed in the first three months of the year, down from 5% before the referendum. That’s the joint lowest rate since 1975.

Correction 4 June 2018

We have clarified the exact time period the Treasury analysis referred to.


Featured

Tackling misinformation in an open society

We aim for our factchecks to be as accurate and up-to-date as possible. If you think we've made an error or missed some relevant information, please email team@fullfact.org.

Tweet

Share