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17 August 2011

The Chancellor needs to get his facts straight

It's hours of work that matter. Fewer hours means less income.

By David Blanchflower

In response to the labour market data released today, the Chancellor is reported as saying: “There is some good news, that employment — in other words, people in work — that number is still going up. We are creating jobs in this economy, as well as jobs being lost.”

That is very far from the real story. Total employment, measured by a count of heads over the past year, has indeed increased by 250,000. The real count of how much work is being done in the economy, however, has fallen sharply.

That is because people are working fewer hours per week than in the past. It is hours of work that matter — fewer hours means lower incomes and that is why spending is down.

Here are the numbers published today from table seven of the Office for National Statistics data release:

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It is clear that there has been a decline in total hours worked over the past year — 6.9 million hours to be precise, mostly among full-time workers.

So if we divide the lost hours worked of 6.9 million by average hours of 36.6 we find that the coalition has killed off the equivalent of just over 188,500 full time jobs.

The Chancellor needs to get his facts straight. The coalition has destroyed the equivalent of nearly 200,000 jobs.

What he should have said was: “There is some really bad news. Total hours worked is falling fast — we are destroying jobs in this economy. My policy is in disarray.”

The truth hurts.