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Sorting fact from fiction: jobs in London vs. rest of UK

Labour is claiming today that 8 out of 10 new private sector jobs created since 2010 have been in London; the Tories say 3 out of 4 of them have been created outside the capital. Which is it?

Private sector job creation in London versus the rest of the UK: confusion over the facts
Private sector job creation in London versus the rest of the UK: confusion over the facts. Photo: Wikimedia

The final report in Lord Adonis’s Growth Review has been making waves today, but not entirely in the way Labour likely expected.

The former Labour Transport Secretary’s “Mending the Fractured Economy” report has been widely commended for its ambitious plans for regional devolution in the UK to combat the economic growth bias in London.

This need to bolster growth in regions outside the capital is partially based on, and most strikingly illustrated by, a somewhat questionable statistic, however.

The report states that “four fifths of all net jobs created since 2010 are in London”. The figure comes from a report by the Centre for Cities, an independent research organisation, published this year but which refers to job figures between 2010 and 2012.

The four fifths figure quoted also refers to private sector, rather than all, job creation in the Centre for Cities report.

Although the statistic has caught the imagination of the public and been widely shared on social media today, updated figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) paint a rather different picture of regional job creation under the current government.

The ONS shows that 75 per cent of all new private sector jobs have in fact been created outside of London, a fact brought to my attention by the number of Conservative MPs quoting it on Twitter.

I’ve checked the CCHQ maths so you don't have to (though if you want to, you can download the datasets here; table 7 contains all regional private sector job figures since 2008), and the ONS figures show that since 2010, 1.63m private sector jobs have been created outside the capital, compared with 570,000 in London.

Admittedly the ONS data is based on surveys that  measure employment by place of residence, so are likely to undercount the number of people who work in London but live elsewhere. Meanwhile the Centre for Cities figure is based on data from the Business Register and Employment Survey (BRES), which looks at employment by workplace, so will accurately reflect the geographical location of new jobs.

But the ONS datasets are released quarterly, so they are far more up-to-date than those based on BRES, which is published annually and has not yet released its 2013 figures.

Centre for Cities chief executive Alexandra Jones said: “While no dataset is perfect, BRES data gives a more accurate picture of where jobs are located, rather than where employed people live.”

David Gauke, Tory MP for South West Hertfordshire and Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, was nonetheless piqued by Labour's use of the Centre for Cities statistics, tweeting earlier:

Other senior Tories have been griping that the government has already adopted many of the conclusions in Adonis’s report.

One Conservative source pointed out to me that the key proposal to allow cities and county regions to keep more of their tax revenues is already part of the government’s City Deals scheme, which allows cities like Manchester to retain some of the tax revenues they generate through local growth, which they can then invest in local infrastructure.

On the BBC’s Today programme this morning, the similarity between the recommendations in Adonis’s report and those in Conservative Michael Heseltine’s regional growth plan, which have been accepted by George Osborne, was pointed out.

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