The dominant economic narrative in the UK is a pretty gloomy one just now. True, employment is at a record high. But, counter the whingers and whiners, zero hours contracts and low pay proliferate. The political discourse is full of the struggles of the JAMs – the Just About Managing The public sector moans about […]
Whoever wins the election tomorrow will have to grapple with what appears to be a fundamental economic problem. Estimated productivity growth in the UK is virtually at a standstill. The standard definition of productivity is the average output per employee across the economy as a whole, after adjusting output for inflation – or “real” output, […]
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) published last week some figures which show how a successful monetary union works in practice. It is not obvious at first sight, from the dry heading: “regional public sector finances”. The ONS collects information on the amounts of public spending and money raised in taxes across the regions of […]
One of the surprises of last week was the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimate of economic growth in the second quarter of 2016, the period from April to the end of June. In the run up to Brexit, the economy expanded by 0.6 per cent on the first quarter of the year. This was […]
Economic statistics are the bane of forecasters’ lives. Cynics might say that this is because the data reveal how bad their predictions are. But a big practical problem is that initial estimates of the state of the economy can be revised substantially. These issues are as nothing compared to statistics on crime. The Crime Survey […]
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has just increased the size of the British economy by nearly £10 billion, a figure equivalent to around 0.7 per cent of the economy as a whole. George Osborne has not waved a magic wand. We have not suddenly become more productive. The reason is that, for the first […]
The economics department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is up to its old tricks again – changing its mind. Just three months ago, the team cut its forecast for UK GDP growth in 2013 to 0.7 per cent from 1 per cent, sparking charges that George Osborne should alter his policies. Last week, the […]
The website of the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has recently been re-designed. A perfectly functional, low tech website has been transformed into a really cool delivery platform. It looks great. The only drawback is that it is very difficult to find any useful data on it. The ONS is the basic source of information not just […]
GDP estimates are eagerly awaited in the City, and dominate the media headlines. Huge significance is attached to arithmetically trivial differences, whether between market expectations and the announced figure, or to subsequent revisions to the data.
But GDP is not something which can be put in a set of scales, say, and measured accurately. The concept is clear. It is the value of national output at market prices. Market prices? How do we value the public sector, where there are no market prices? A series of plausible conventions has evolved as to how to value such activities. But there is a substantial amount of arbitrary judgment involved.