FactCheck readers have been tweeting and emailing questions about George Osborne’s latest state-of-the-economy address.

You’re a suspicious bunch, and there were suggestions that not every word the chancellor uttered today was the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The very idea.

Let’s take a look at some of the claims that caused eyebrows to rise.

fact_108x60“The UK is the fastest-growing of any major advanced economy in the world.”

True, according to a metric produced by the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) today.

“Any major advanced economy in the world” is a bit vague, but we assume it’s code for the G7 club of rich nations. That’s Britain, the US, Canada, Japan, Germany, France and Italy.

As this OBR graphic shows, if you measure GDP growth from the third quarter of 2012 to the second quarter of 2014, Britain beats all those countries.


Clearly, some countries that might consider themselves to be major advanced economies did better.

What is the chancellor not telling us?

If you choose a different time-frame, things aren’t quite as good. If you trace growth from the first quarter of 2008 in an attempt to measure how quickly countries bounced back after the financial crisis, the UK is behind Canada and the US in the G7.


And the OBR has revised its long-term growth predictions down slightly since the budget in March.

Other organisations like the IMF and the World Bank offer GDP growth predictions by country too.

Most of them do back the chancellor’s fundamental point that UK GDP is growing faster many other advanced economies at the moment.

factfiction_108x60“How many of the jobs being created are full time? 85 per cent.”

Again, slightly loose language here. What period of time does the phrase “being created” cover?

Mr Osborne is basically right if you look at Office for National Statistics (ONS) employment statistics over the last 12 months that we know about.

According to the ONS (hereĀ – EMP01), there were 30,886,000 people in employment in July to September 2014, compared with 30,194,000 people in the same quarter in 2013.

People working full-time do indeed account for 85 per cent of the difference.

We ought to point out here that some people take great exception to ministers using phrase “new jobs” to describe changes in employment.

The UK Statistics Authority has said ministers should not refer to “new jobs being created”, because the stats show the net change in employment (people finding work minus those moving out of employment, and they count numbers of people, not jobs: one person can have more than one job.

FactCheck has to put its hands up here. We’ve been guilty of using the dreaded phrase “new jobs” as journalese for these changes in employment levels in the past too. We shouldn’t do it and we’re sorry.

George Osborne shouldn’t either, but it’s probably not the worst thing he’s ever done.

What the stats show, at the end of the day, is that there are about 700,000 more people in employment now compared to a year ago, and about 600,000 of those were working full-time.

fact_108x60“For those in full-time work for over a year, earnings grew 4 per cent over the last year.”

The evidence for this also comes from the ONS. Figures published a couple of weeks ago do indeed show that the annual change in median full-time gross weekly earnings for people in employment for over a year was 4.1 per cent in 2014, the highest since 2008.

What is the chancellor not telling us?

If you include all full-time employees, growth in weekly earnings was up by just 0.1 per cent. That’s way below inflation and represents the smallest annual growth since records began in 1997.