The claim

“In case the Prime Minister didn’t realise, in Dartford where the Howes family live there are five people chasing every vacancy”

Labour leader Ed Miliband, Prime Minister’s Questions, 7 March 2012

The analysis

There was something of a stand-off at today’s Prime Minister’s Questions between the Labour leader and the PM.

In a debate over cuts to tax credits, David Cameron said he didn’t think it was unreasonable to expect couples to work at least 24 hours a week between them in order to claim benefits.

The PM said cuts had to be seen in context. “How on earth will we deal with the deficit?”, he challenged the Labour leader.

But Ed Miliband said the PMs defence was of “no use” to people who simply can’t find the extra hours – and will lose their tax credits as a result.

Mr Miliband gave the example of Tim Howes, a married father of three who is the sole earner and works 20 hours a week. Unless Mr Howes works 24 hours a week, he’ll lose his credit of some £60 a week.

Mr Howes has approached his employer for extra hours, but been told “there simply aren’t the hours there”.

The Labour leader said there are five people for every vacant job in Dartford, where the Howes family live.

Was he right? And how does the competition measure up in the rest of the country?

According to official labour market statistics for Dartford there were 5.3 people on job seekers’ allowance for every jobcentre vacancy in January.

And nationally, the figure was much worse. Across Great Britain there were seven unemployed people per job vacancy in January.

That’s almost triple the number of unemployed people per job vacancy that there were ten years ago in 2002.

The verdict

Mr Miliband was right to point out that competition in the job market is fierce.

In January, there were seven unemployed people chasing every job in Great Britain. And the situation – which had been slowly improving – is now deteriorating sharply.

As recently as October last year, the ratio had decreased to 4.6 to every job. But within three months, it had climbed back up to 7:1.

By Emma Thelwell