Net migration: still at record high and trend flat

25 August 2016

Immigration statistics were published today, and as ever are widely reported.

The yardstick that makes headlines is ‘net migration’the difference between the number of people coming to live in the UK and the number leaving. In the year ending in March 2016, net migration was an estimated 327,000. In the same period a year ago, the figure was a record high 336,000, while in the last set of figures released (covering the calendar year 2015), it was 333,000.

But the margin for error on these statistics (43,000) is almost five times higher than the 9,000 year-on-year change.

So while it’s accurate to report that net migration has fallen slightly, in some ways the best description of the figures is that they haven’t changed at all. You have to go back to 2014 to see some really significant movement.

If, instead of a 9,000 fall, there had been a 9,000 rise, that would have set a new record for net migration. That’s what we would have read in the newspapersbut fundamentally, the story either way is that net migration seems to be levelling off at a historically high level.

That’s reflected in the overall conclusion of the Office for National Statistics: “net migration remains at record levels although the recent trend is broadly flat”.

As these figures only go up to March 2016, we’ll have to wait until the ONS estimates due out in December or even early 2017 to see whether the EU referendum has had any effect on net migration.

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