The claim

“Tesco (is) to create 20,000 new jobs”

Tesco press release, 5 March 2010

Cathy Newman checks it out

It’s a mark of the suspicion with which corporate Britain is currently viewed that Tesco’s “good news” story about new jobs immediately prompts a barrage of questions about what the supermarket chain’s hiding.

The firm might have expected its promise to create 20,000 jobs over the next two years to be enthusiastically endorsed – or at least, to borrow from its own slogan, to be embraced with the verdict “every little helps”.

But few are prepared to take what Tesco says on trust. Do these figures strip out jobs lost? Are they full-time posts? Over to the team.

The analysis

This isn’t the first time Tesco has promised to boost the UK’s job market.  In 2010, Tesco pledged to create 9,000 new jobs in the UK.

A year later however, official figures from the UK’s largest private sector employer revealed that the number of its UK employees had risen by 6,210 to a total of 293,676 in 2011. That’s total job numbers, which includes full-time and part-time jobs.

But if you tot up all the hours worked it would translate to a rise in full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs that year of 3,592 – less than half of the number of new jobs promised.

Just two years before that in 2008, Tesco promised to create 6,000 new jobs in the UK – but managed just to add on just 503 FTE jobs.

In fact, in the five years since 2007 Tesco has boosted the number of FTE jobs by 16,505.

Nevertheless, a spokesman for Tesco insisted: “Tesco has created the jobs it promised to create each year since 2008.”

How can they make that claim? Tesco told us that the headline total jobs figure for the UK is pulled down by redundancies, retirements and natural turnover.

However, the group couldn’t prove it – because it refused to break-out those numbers and allow us to look at the figures like-for-like.

The retailer would also not tell FactCheck how many jobs would be full-time, temporary or part-time.

A spokesman said that the 20,000 new jobs would be a “mix”.

Meanwhile, the retail giant announced plans today to boost the number of apprenticeships it will offer over the next two years by 10,000.

For the first time, apprenticeships will be offered to new employees (at the moment is it only available to existing employees).

This is a huge leap from the 3,000 apprenticeships it took on in the last year – but not all of them will be for young people. Tesco told us that 45 per cent of its 3,000 apprentices are under 25; while many are in their 60s. “We don’t think there should be an age limit,” a spokesman for the retailer told us.

As for where the new jobs and apprenticeships would be within the business, we were told to wait until next month’s preliminary interim report for more detail on the jobs pledge.

Sadly, that’ll be after the Chancellor’s Budget is revealed on March 21. Yet as James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, pointed out – these numbers matter to Westminster.

He said: “Tesco are allowing (the) government to draw the wrong conclusions about retail as a whole. For most retailers, large and small, it’s a case of hanging onto the jobs they can already offer, cutting back hours where necessary and scrutinising every budget line to the bone.”

Tesco however insists it will add 20,000 new employees to its workforce within the next two years.

Cathy Newman’s verdict

Tesco might feel rather sore that an apparently positive announcement is met with such scepticism. But until it can provide more detail about these jobs, suspicions must remain.

If many of these 20,000 jobs end up being part-time, the pledge is less impressive. And over the last five years, it has fallen well short of its promises on job creation as far as we can tell.

So unless the economy recovers rapidly and strongly – an unlikely scenario – FactCheck suggests you buy some own-brand table salt to accompany Tesco’s claim.

The analysis by Emma Thelwell