David Blanchflower: Cameron's employment claims just don't add up

Economic Outlook: He insists one million jobs have been created; they haven’t

My week started with my first-ever earthquake. Turns out it was only a 4.0 on the Richter scale, centred in Maine – but the house still shook and there was a big rumble. One of my Twitter followers from California told me it was nothing more than a "gentle nudge".

Then it was off for a 36-hour trip to Ireland and back: I watched Prime Minister's Questions while waiting in the lounge at Dublin airport on the way home. An obviously rattled David Cameron, who had clearly had a really bad week with his own series of tremors on badgers, whips, energy prices and ticket-gate, seemed to let slip that the gross domestic product data to be released the next day contained good news.

I recall that George Osborne had criticised Tony Blair, saying "important economic data should not be blurted out" when he talked about the unemployment data at a TUC conference ahead of the official release. One lesson I have learned from living in a small New England town is "what goes around comes around". As I discuss below, Mr Cameron has also had trouble with loose talk in regards to the labour market.

Then came the GDP figures themselves, which showed the economy grew by a better than expected 1 per cent in the third quarter. But to put this in context the UK economy is still 3 per cent below its level at the start of the recession in 2008.

As Sir Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, made clear in his speech in Wales last week, "the big picture is that GDP is barely higher than two years ago, and remains some 15 per cent below where steady growth since 2007 would have taken us" – that is assuming the same growth rate achieved in the decade preceding the recession.

Over the past year, there has been no growth at all. The consensus among economists was that this was likely to be a quarter with a short-lived boost because of the extra bank holiday for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in the previous quarter, which accounts for 0.5 per cent. In addition, even though most of the sales of tickets for the London Olympics occurred last year, by convention they were counted at the time they were used, along with revenue from the broadcast rights – and that accounts for 0.2 per cent.

So the 0.7 per cent suggests that there is no underlying growth. The slowing of the PMIs, an unexpectedly weak manufacturing survey from the CBI and weak scores from the Bank of England's agents – along with further slowing in Europe and low levels of business and consumer confidence – mean it is almost inevitable that the UK will enter a triple-dip recession in the fourth quarter.

I also need to set straight the growing number of false claims about the labour market that Mr Cameron insists on repeating, starting with the claim he repeated at PMQs, that one million private-sector jobs have been created under the coalition; they haven't. In June 2012, some 200,000 workers employed in further education and sixth-form colleges were transferred by the Office for National Statistics from the public to the private sector, so only by cheating is that claim true. The coalition created none of these further education jobs; in fact they have been cutting jobs in the sector, which declined 13,000 since June 2010. Not true.

Second, Mr Cameron has claimed that employment is rising under the coalition. The official labour market figure that the ONS publishes as the "national statistic" comes from the Labour Force Survey and is published, as I illustrate above, as a misleading and meaningless three-month rolling average for both employment and unemployment, which is then compared to the previous three-month rolling average.

It turns out that what happened six months ago is quite different to what is happening now. The official data suggest that employment this rolling quarter (June-August) was 29,590,000 – up by 214,000 from 29,376,000 in March-May. Data by single month that are used to construct these data are actually available on the ONS website, which allows us to unpack what is really going on.

The two numbers above are reported in red in the table so 29,590,000 is the average of the June to August period: similarly 29,376,00 is the average for the March-May period. But the monthly data themselves tell a completely different story of what is going on over the last two months – because employment is falling.

The data for August show employment was actually 29,560,000 – that is 32,000 lower than the July number (29,592), which itself was 27,000 lower than the June figure. Every other advanced country in the world publishes its labour-market data, including the unemployment rate, by single month rather than using these distorting rolling averages. In sum: employment has been falling for the last two months after it reached a possible pre-Olympic peak in June. Don't believe Mr Cameron when he tells you employment is rising; it isn't, it's falling.

Third, he has claimed that employment is at record levels. As the table shows, it was lower in August than it was in July, or even in June for that matter, because as I noted above, employment is falling, not rising. It is true that employment in each of the last three months has gone over 29.5m for the first time, but that arises in large part simply because of the growth of the size of the population aged over 16.

This now stands at 50.59m, the highest it has ever been and up from 50.56m in July and 50.53m in June. Expressed as a proportion of the population aged 16 and over, the employment rate stood at 58.4 per cent in August, which is the same level it was when the Government took office in May 2010. But it is now lower than it was in every one of the 137 successive months under Labour: hardly a great success story. More pork pies. It is about time the government started creating jobs rather than fiddling the statistics.

News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
people

Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?

Sport
Erik Lamela celebrates his goal
football

Argentinian scored 'rabona' wonder goal for Tottenham in Europa League – see it here

News
people

Far-right organisation has defended its actions on Facebook

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
News
i100
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Voices
Don’t try this at home: DIY has now fallen out of favour
voicesNick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of it
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Sport
Phil Jones (left) attempts to stop the progress of West Bromwich Albion’s James Morrison on Monday
Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo, writes Paul Scholes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

Markit EDM (CADIS) Developer

£50000 - £90000 per annum + benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Markit EDM (CA...

COO / Chief Operating Officer

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to ...

SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfordshire - £350 - £360

£350 - £360 per day: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfor...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker