August 11, 2010 • 5:14 pm

Today’s unemployment figures contained some good news, with the highest rise in people in work since 1989, according to the Office for National Statistics.

But has the good news been exaggerated by ministers?

The Claim

Work and Pensions Minister Chris Grayling took to the screens this morning to welcome the positive movement in labour market figures.

In doing so, Mr Grayling told Sky News: “But there’s also been a very encouraging rise in employment levels in the economy…the biggest private sector increase in jobs for a very long time indeed.”

He also made a similarly worded claim when talking to the BBC.

But do the stats back him up?

Analysis

Assessing the figures is complicated by the time lag in publishing the breakdown of public and private sector employment levels.

Today’s statistical bulletin only contains figures broken down in this way up to March 2010, so do not relate to the overall employment figures announced today.

Looking at the figures up to March, Mr Grayling’s claim does not appear to be accurate.

From December 2009 to March 2010 there was a rise in private sector employment of 18,000 but from June 2009 to September 2009 there was a larger rise of 28,000 – challenging the Minister’s assertion.

One explanation could be that, given the spending restraint in the public sector, much of today’s 184,000 rise in total employment is likely to be comprised of additional private sector employment, given the trends in previous quarters.

However when Full Fact contacted the Department for Work and Pensions we were assured that Mr Grayling was referring to the data up to March 2010, a period before Mr Grayling was actually in office.

If these are the figures he was referring to, then they do not back him up.

When we put this to the Department a spokesperson told us: “It is a big rise, it’s an especially big rise against the fact there was a drop in public sector employment.   

“That was the overall point he was making.”

Conclusion

There is undoubtedly a trend of rising private sector employment in the labour market, and it is entirely possible that once the ONS crunch the numbers, today’s employment figures will show the biggest rise in private sector employment for some years – ultimately bearing Mr Grayling out.

But going solely off the data that has been published today, far from being the biggest rise in private sector employment for “a very long time” it has only, in the event, been the largest rise for two quarters.

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