There was a report a few weeks ago that Alistair Darling was uncomfortable about having to repeat the claim that “up to 500,000 jobs” had been saved by government interventions since the credit crunch.
The Mail on Sunday claimed that Darling had argued against Gordon Brown’s entreaties to repeat the figure more often.
You may remember that the chancellor first made the claim in the Budget. Then Gordon Brown in July upped the ante by claiming the government had saved “at least 500,000 jobs.” The figure was always a bit debatable because it included jobs saved by interest rate cuts and quantative easing, both of which were carried out by the Bank of England.
Back in September I asked the Treasury press office half a dozen times to give me more detail about the number, in particular the lower level of the range of estimates. No one could tell me, as I blogged here.
Now Alex has obtained the Treasury’s original guidance to ministers back in April. It was impossible to give a definitive number, said officials. But it would be reasonable to use the figure of “250,000 to 450,000″.
So not only was the lower estimate half the figure used by ministers. They also rounded 450,000 up to 500,000 to give a nice, round and not altogether kosher figure.
Alex points out that at least the methodology used to reach the range of estimates was sound. The Treasury did not take account of the UK’s generous automatic stabilisers (for example, tax credits).