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FactCheck: Were 135,000 new jobs really gained under Fine Gael?

TheJournal.ie’s GE16 FactCheck has tested one of Fine Gael’s major campaign pitches.

Image: Fine Gael via Twitter

AS PART OF our GE16 FactCheck series, we’re testing the truth of claims made by candidates and parties on the campaign trail.

If you hear something that doesn’t sound quite right, or see a claim that looks great, but you want to confirm it, email factcheck@thejournal.ie.

The campaign officially began on Wednesday, and the parties had plenty to say about themselves and each other, so let’s start there.

Claim: 300,000 jobs were lost under Fianna Fáil, 135,000 were gained under Fine Gael – Fine Gael
Verdict: Can’t be verified, and relies on data that shouldn’t be used to measure job gains.

What was said:

On its website, Fine Gael states:

“Over 135,000 extra jobs have been created since the Action Plan for Jobs began in 2012.”

Peter Heylin in Meath-West emailed factcheck@thejournal.ie, when his eye was caught by the jobs claims being made on the Fine Gael Twitter account.

The Facts:

The CSO, using figures provided by Revenue, measures job gains (the difference between job creation and destruction) using “job churn” – a comparison of the number of hirings and separations (redundancies, etc…) in a given year.

The final three years of the last Fianna Fáil-led government were 2008-2010. The 2011 election took place on 25 February, which means that although there was some overlap between administrations, Fine Gael and Labour were in office for nine months that year.

From 2009 to 2011, the CSO recorded net job losses of 619,431, but it’s important to note that job losses recorded in one year, actually took place the previous year.

So it is more accurate to say that, from the beginning of 2008 to the end of 2010, the Fianna Fáil-led government were in place during a period when net job losses were 449,774.

FiannaFailjobcreation Source: CSO.ie

The Fine Gael-led government took office in March 2011, and the CSO does not yet have job creation figures recorded in 2014.

Net job creation in 2011 (recorded in 2012) was 8,458. However, the Action Plan for Jobs was launched in February 2012.

This means that, using the CSO’s preferred measure, the only official figure available for the period defined by Fine Gael in its own claims, is a net loss of jobs to the tune of 13,368.

FGjobcreation Source: CSO.ie

However, Fine Gael confirmed to TheJournal.ie that they had used a different measure to arrive at the claim that there had been “135,000 new jobs” since they launched the action plan for jobs, in February 2012.

In Fine Gael’s statements and slogans, there is some conflation of job creation and employment levels, which are two distinct measures.

In some instances, it has been claimed that 135,000 “new jobs were created,” and in others, that “135,000 more people are going to work.”

Using the CSO’s Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS), and extracting the seasonally-adjusted number of people employed, we find that in the first quarter of 2008 (the first of Fianna Fáil’s last three years in government), there were 2,160,600 people aged over 15 in employment.

In the first quarter of 2011, that figure was 1,854,300 – which is 306,300 lower, and is the source of Fine Gael’s first claim.

In the first quarter of 2012 (when the Action Plan for Jobs was launched), there were 1,837,600 people over the age of 15 employed.

In the third quarter of 2015 (the most recent data available), that figure was 1,973,400 – which means a net gain of 135,800 people in employment, the source of Fine Gael’s second claim.

jobcreation Source: CSO.ie

This validates Fine Gael’s contention that: “Over 135,000 more people are going to work since we launched our Action Plan for Jobs” (emphasis added).

However, claims about job gains (the difference between creation and destruction) should not be made using the QNHS, and should be measured by the CSO’s preferred method, the “job churn” figures, which can be found here.

Brian Ring, Senior Statistician in the CSO’s Labour Market Division, offered his expert evaluation of using the QNHS, as Fine Gael did:

The QNHS does not measure job creation. It measures the stock of persons in the labour force at a given point in time.

If you compare one date with an earlier date, and find that 135,800 additional persons are in employment at the second date, he says, you cannot make any conclusion about the number of jobs created or lost during the period of time in between.

The labour market is dynamic – people move in and out of jobs, jobs are created and lost, and people retire.

If two million people are in employment at one point, and two million are in employment at a later point, Ring says, “that’s not necessarily the same two million people or the same two million jobs.”

Furthermore, the QNHS dataset used by Fine Gael does not take into account the quality of jobs held by those persons – whether full-time, part-time, permanent or temporary.

Finally, the 135,800 increase in the number of people employed does not in itself prove that it was caused by the Action Plan for Jobs, only that it occurred after the plan was launched.

After this article was published, Fine Gael contacted TheJournal.ie to say that their figures were based on “The number of people who had jobs in Q1 2012 compared to number of people who have jobs now.”

They added: “The only way that the in-employment figure can increase is when somebody who does not have a job in Ireland, gets a job in Ireland.”

If you see a claim you want checked, email factcheck@thejournal.ie

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About the author:

Dan MacGuill

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