One of George Osborne's favourite boasts is that 800,000 new private sector jobs have been created since the election. Last week, after the release of the stunningly bad GDP figures, he claimed that "We’ve made progress over the past two years in cutting the deficit by 25 per cent and creating over 800,000 new jobs." He was at it again in Saturday's Metro, writing that "we've seen the benefits already of our pro-business approach. Unemployment has been falling, where in other countries like the US it has risen. Over 800,000 new jobs in the private sector have been created." The Treasury repeated the claim on Twitter.
"...We’re dealing with our debts at home & the debt crisis abroad. We've cut the deficit by 25% & businesses have created 800,000 new jobs."
— HM Treasury (@hmtreasury) July 25, 2012
Similarly, at Prime Minister's Questions on 11 July, David Cameron declared: "It was under this government that we got 800,000 more private sector jobs"
It's an impressive figure but, unfortunately for Cameron and Osborne, it's also completely false. According to the most recent ONS figures, private sector employment has risen by 843,000 since March 2010 but, as Osborne wants you to forget, the coalition wasn't elected until May. If we look at job creation since then, we find that the increase is actually 529,000, with a concurrent loss of 393,000 public sector jobs (who said that the cuts aren't happening?)
Yet the 800,000 figure appeared unchallenged in almost every paper and on every news channel over the weekend. With the economy now smaller than it was at the time of the election and 4.5 per cent below its 2008 peak, Osborne's desire to massage his record is understandable. But while he can make as many wrong-headed arguments for austerity as he likes, he should not be allowed to mislead voters with bogus statistics.
Update: I've just written to the UK Statistics Authority requesting that they ask Cameron and Osborne to retract the claim.