Almost every newspaper today leads on the chilling figure of 500,000 jobs to go. This was taken from a briefing paper held by Danny Alexander – a “gaffe” says The Guardian.
Indeed: it was top secret - to anyone without internet access. “The OBR’s Budget forecast was for a reduction in public sector workforce numbers to 490,000 by 2014/15”. Read the
offending sentence. This was not private advice, but posted online (here) and this is what it
But hang on. The same forecasts predict that the number of jobs in the economy will rise – by 1.08 million over the same timeframe. So by the same forecasts, the economy will create
as many jobs than the public sector is shedding. Here is the relevant table…
The overall story for the UK economy is more jobs, and less unemployment. So surely a balance report would have said this? Told readers that the OBR is forecasting 500,000 job losses in the public
sector – but 1.5 million jobs created in the private sector? So the overall picture is not Armageddon, but that of greater employment.
I have seen no newspaper today give the other side of this argument. The only way readers would find it out is to look at the photos of the briefing document poor Danny Alexander clutched in the
car. The ‘cuts’ sentence is circled in red, in a ‘gotcha’ style. But two sentences above, there is another sentence - which was cut out of all the news reports, doubtless
for lack of space. It said “OBR’s budget forecast is for whole economy employment to rise from 28.9m to 30.2m between 2010-11 and 2015-16, driven by two million private sector
jobs”. (The 2m figure is greater than the 1.5m figure, because they are adding an extra year: 2015-16).
The MSM reporting of the cuts has been near-hysterical at times, and woefully lacking in any sense of balance. The BBC, in particular, has no excuse: it has an economics team and a mandate to be a
public service broadcaster. Why did it make no mention of the other side of this coin? Is there a D-Notice on good economic news that we haven’t been told about?
Half a century ago, CP Snow wrote about the “two cultures” of science and the arts, breaking apart from each other and not understanding each other. The problem with too much British
journalism is that the guys who do words do not understand the guys who do numbers. The result is a public being misled about what is happening in George Osborne’s statement today.