Labour Force Survey suggests surge of 12,000 in number of UK journalists since 2009

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Amid BBC head of news James Harding’s rundown last night of the various challenges faces journalism in his WT Stead lecture there was one startling factoid.

Quoting the Office of National Statistics he claimed that the number of journalists working in the UK had increased from 62,000 to 70,000 over the last two years.

Could this really be true?

By my reckoning around one in four local newspaper journalists have lost their jobs over the last five years as a result of the recession and structural changes in the way people consume news and advertising.

Have they really all been replaced by people working for online news sites like Buzzfeed as Harding suggests?

Well up to a point.

He is quoting the UK Labour Force Survey estimate which uses something called the Standard Occupational Classification to describe the sort of job people do.

Looking at those who describe themselves as “journalists, newspaper and periodical editors”   the survey, which takes place from April to June every year, suggests a sharp drop following the downturn in 2008 but a healthy recovery since then.

The total number working as “journalists, newspaper and periodical editors”  in the UK in the years 2008 to 2013 according to the LFS are as follows:

  • 2007: 57,000
  • 2008: 67,000
  • 2009: 58,000
  • 2010: 63,000
  • 2011: 62,000
  • 2012: 65,000
  • 2013: 70,000

But when you break it down by full-time employment the results actually show a drop in the total number working as journalists between 2011 and 2013:

  • 2007: 30,000
  • 2008: 39,000
  • 2009: 34,000
  • 2010: 36,000
  • 2011: 39,000
  • 2012: 40,000
  • 2013: 37,000

That 70,000 quoted by Harding breaks down as follows (to the nearest thousand):

  • Full-time employed: 37,000
  • Part-time employed: 5,000
  • Full-time self-employed: 17,000
  • Part-time self-employed: 10,000

The devil is of course in the detail. Many of the jobs in journalism that have gone over the last five years have been people on local papers doing a vital job of holding those in power locally to account.

Many of the new jobs which have been created involve creating “content” for “brands”. It would be fascinating to know a little more about the jobs those 70,000 are doing.

As a sidebar, journalists often feel like they are hopelessly outnumbered by PRs nowadays. But the Labour Force Survey appears to tell a different story.

Here are the totals for people in work describing themselves as public relations officers:

  • 2007: 36,000
  • 2008: 27,000
  • 2009: 33,000
  • 2010: 36,000
  • 2011: 39,000
  • 2012: 38,000
  • 2013: 37,000

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