The claim

“There are more people in work today than there were at the time of the last election”

David Cameron, Prime Minister’s Questions, 25 January 2012

The background

FactCheck has long been on at the PM to curb his boasts over employment. In today’s PMQs, he did water his claim down a bit (we no longer have the one about private sector job creation offsetting public sector job losses).

Has he finally got the balance right? FactCheck puts the nail in the coffin.

The analysis

David Cameron’s claim that employment has risen since the General Election of May 2010 has always rested on one crucial quarter: April-May-June of 2010.

In this quarter, there was a huge net change in private sector jobs of +311,000 (against losses in the public sector).

As the Office for National Statistics (ONS) produces these headline figures on a quarterly basis, and as the election fell bang in the middle of this quarter, Cameron has been able to ignore the matter of the separate set of “experimental” ONS statistics. This data indicates that the bulk of the jobs growth came before the election. You can read our previous FactChecks on this here.

However, today Mr Cameron didn’t make the distinction between public and private sectors. He lumped everyone together, to claim that there are more people in work now than there were at the time of the election.

For this overall figure, the ONS does have official statistics – it provides rolling averages that straddle the crucial second quarter of 2010.

These show that total employment for full-time, part-time and temporary workers over May-July 2010 was 29,145,000.

Yet in the last update, that number had fallen to 29,119,000, for the months September-November 2011.

That’s a loss of 26,000 jobs from the time of the election.

Full-time jobs are actually up 43,000, while part-time jobs have dropped by 70,000.

But don’t let the full-time figure distract you. Why? Because the number of people entering the job market during this time has continued to grow. And ONS data shows that since the election, more people are searching for part-time work because they can’t find full time work.

The number of people citing the reason for searching for part-time work because they could not find a full-time job, has risen from 1.12m to 1.3m.

The number of people taking on temporary employment because they can’t find full-time work has also risen from 570,000 to 590,000.

Simon Kirby, senior research officer at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, told FactCheck that overall, the labour market has flattened out because employers are hoarding existing staff on wage freezes.

He warned that people will find it “very difficult” to get jobs this year, as companies will delay taking on workers until they see more confidence in the economic markets.

He added: “The patterns in temporary and part-time employment add weight to the hesitancy of employers to take people on right now”.

The verdict

Official statistics show that Mr Cameron is wrong – since the election the overall number of jobs has fallen by 26,000.

While the full-time job market might be showing a small growth of 43,000, the number of part-time and temporary jobs has dropped by 70,000 since the election – yet more people are chasing them because they can’t find full-time work.  In fact, year-on-year the number of people looking for part-time work because they can’t get a full-time job is up by almost 13 per cent.

As many of our Twitter followers have suggested before, with his constant slip ups on job stats, the only people Mr Cameron is managing to keep firmly in employment is the FactCheck team.

Update: Ed Miliband has written to David Cameron asking him to correct the record on his “inaccurate claims”. You can read it here.

By Emma Thelwell

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