Unemployment: DOWN — Payrolled employees: UP — Real wages: UP

Graham Charles Lear
4 min readNov 20, 2023

What the hell is wrong with our civil servants? (Apart from them not turning up to work)

Last week there was good news from the Office for National Statistics, buried by all the political news. In each case, there was reason to celebrate but you would never know this from the summaries they produce.

To counter this negativity from Britain’s civil servants, I produce and show you the good news that they try to suppress.

Basic economic statistics from the ONS last week

1. Unemployment — way below the EU’s, at 4.2%

  • UK unemployment 4.2%
  • EU unemployment 6.0%

[Sources: Latest ONS and EU Commission official data.]

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2. Payrolled employees up by 1.2m

  • Increase on 1 year ago +398,000
  • Since Feb 2020 +1,190,000

The number of payrolled employees rose by 1.3% compared with October 2022, a rise of 398,000 employees. The number of payrolled employees was up by 4.1% since February 2020, a rise of 1,190,000.

[Source ONS.]

The number of payrolled employees is now well above pre-pandemic levels. And of course, the increase is even more when compared with the catastrophic predictions of HM Treasury, David Cameron, and George Osborne just before the EU Referendum.

They predicted massive job losses of up to 820,000 and have still failed to apologise for misleading the public so egregiously.

On top of that, one of them was ennobled by the PM last week and given one of the plum jobs in government.

3. Wage growth — above inflation

Annual growth in real terms (adjusted for inflation) for total pay including bonuses rose on the year by 1.4% in the period Jul-Sept 2023.

  • Annual average regular pay growth for the public sector was 7.3% in Jul-Sept 2023
  • This is ”the highest regular annual growth rate since comparable records began in 2001”
  • For the private sector, this was 7.8%
  • ”Among the largest annual growth rates seen outside of the COVID-19 pandemic period.”

[Source: ONS.]

Basic economic statistics from the ONS last week (continued)

4. Retail sales

When compared with their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic level in February 2020, total retail sales were 16.9% higher in value terms.

Retail sales in real terms have increased. Below I show the reality.

[Source: ONS.]

For years I tolerated the negativity of the BBC and the Office for National Statistics but at some point, this has to change. It is simply unacceptable for this propaganda to continue. If not we might as well be living in the Soviet Union of the 1980s.

On top of many civil servants’ unwillingness to embrace and make a go of Brexit, we continue to have their unwillingness to go into the office and do a decent week’s work. One government department has even allowed their staff to go off and sun themselves for a week, on full pay.

Here is what the Rt Hon Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP had to say about this yesterday.

“This is absolutely stark raving bonkers. I’ve never heard something more idiotic, stupid and pointless for a long, long time.

“Working from overseas? I mean really? By the beach perhaps? In the sea? On a holiday? Really? If the Civil Service chiefs think that is sensible, then we need a complete clearout. You’ve got to ask yourself, of course, it’s not their money, it’s the taxpayers’ money, so they don’t care. Just bonkers.”

I have advocated for years the wholesale firing of all Permanent Secretaries of all government departments, along with firing all the Heads of Communications.

Those readers familiar with the 18th-century novel by Voltaire (Candide) will recall his words: “In this country, it is good to kill an admiral from time to time, in order to encourage the others”. This followed the execution of the Admiral John Byng on 14th March 1757. I most certainly do not advocate execution but I do continue to call for the removal of the top echelons from their posts, “pour encourager les autres”.

Sources: Office for National Statistics | EU Commission

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Graham Charles Lear

What is life without a little controversy in it? Quite boring and sterile would be my answer.