Are 500,000 jobs arriving in Jobcentres every week?

Last updated: 14 Jun 2012

"On average, every week there are about half a million new jobs coming through at the Jobcentre"

Iain Duncan Smith, LBC radio, 14 June 2012

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith did the rounds on this morning's news shows explaining the Government's plans to review the way in which child povery is measured in the UK.

Among his first stops on his studio tour was an appearance on LBC Radio, where Mr Duncan Smith claimed that half a million new jobs were being advertised in Jobcentres across the country every week (thanks to Full Fact readers and LBC listener @WoolfieSmith for the tip-off).

The claim actually closely echoes remarks he made on the BBC's Newsnight programme two years ago:

"About now we have something like 450,000 - just short of half a million - jobs every week created within the Jobcentre."

So where is the Secretary getting his figures from?

As Full Fact has explored before, job vacancies are measured in two ways: the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates the total number in the economy via their Vacancy Survey, and Jobcentre Plus measures vacancies processed by their own database, available via the ONS' nomis website.

A quick look at the Vacancy Survey confirms that from January to March 2012 there were around 464,000 vacancies across the economy as a whole. However Mr Duncan-Smith refers to those dealt with by Jobcentres.

The Jobcentre figures provide monthly data - most recently for April 2012 - of several different vacancy measures:

1. Notified vacancies - These show the number of new jobs flowing into the Job Centre

2. Unfilled vacancies - A snapshot of the total number of unfilled vacancies sitting in Job Centres at the end of April, however not all of these are available for Jobseekers

3. Vacancy outflow - Vacancies that have been filled

In April 2012, 443,000 job vacancies entered Jobcentres across the country. However only 275,000 of these were standard full-time vacancies ('standard' means that self-employed vacancies are excluded).

Of course this is monthly data, while the Secretary of State's claim concerns the number of vacancies coming in every week. 

However even on a monthly basis, the number of new jobs being advertised in Jobcentres falls short of the "half a million" mentioned by Mr Duncan Smith, so it is difficult to see how his claim that a similar number are being created week in, week out.

So what about the number of vacancies currently at Jobcentres, rather than new ones being freshly advertised? The data shows that 494,000 vacancies are currently 'unfilled', however job seekers can only apply for 306,000 of these (so called 'live unfilled vacancies').

Again, this is monthly data and provides no grounds whatsoever for claiming that this many vacancies are available each week.

After contacting the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), they could not verify what Mr Duncan-Smith may have said this morning. However, they did confirm:

"On average Jobcentre Plus continues to add 10,000 jobs to its books every working day."

This would work out at approximately 200,000 per month, some way short of Mr Duncan Smith's claim.

This figure is actually somewhat lower than the current number of inflows into Job Centres, although as we pointed out above, only considering standard full-time roles bings us closer to DWP's estimate.

Conclusion

Regardless of which metric the DWP are using to measure the Job Centre's inflows, 10,000 jobs per working day (50,000 per week) is certainly not half a million per week.

So the Work and Pensions Secretary has inadvertently added 450,000 new vacancies to the actual statistics. Given that he has already done this before, he would be even more advised not to do so again.

CORRECTION

Our article originally stated that the ONS vacancy statistics came via the Labour Force Survey. They actually emanate from the Vacancy Survey. We apologise for any minor confusion that may have been caused by this mistake, and strive to be accurate in our reporting.


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