Wednesday, January 17, 2007

When up is down, and down is up?

It never ceases to amaze me how the Government can put out a press release with a headline statement and then bury completely contradictory information in the detail. Here is the headline from the the DWP
"Jim Murphy, Minister of State for Employment and Welfare Reform, welcomed today's Labour Market figures - which show more people in work, a fall in the claimant count, and a fall in ILO unemployment"
When you read on you discover that, ok, the number of people working has risen 274,000 over the past year, but that can be explained away by massive inward migration from accession states, plus people starting work for the first time in conjunction with people working longer and not retiring. But the real killer comes in the claims that there's a fall in the claimant count and a fall in ILO unemployment. It is, to say the least disingenuous.

A quick look at the notes of the press release shows that
"The number claiming Jobseeker's Allowance fell in December, down 5.5 thousand to 943.1 thousand. It is up 35.2 thousand over the year.

ILO unemployment is down 29 thousand this quarter but up 139 thousand on a year ago."
Basically, the trends are up, but the Government is using a one month snapshot (which just so happens to be the month when lots of people go into seasonal work) to make tub thumping statements. Statistics are fab!


Tejus Ramakrishnan said...

statistics have always been twisted to show the most favorable results..

Anonymous said...

Well, as Disraeli said "There are three kinds of lies; lies, damn lies, and statistics"

Thanks for highlighting it though.

Anonymous said...

Tejus: statistics have always been twisted to show the most favorable results..

No. 41% of statistics have been twisted to show the most favourable results; 53% of statistics have been twisted to support the worst possible interpretation; 6% of statistics have been lost on a bus somewhere; and the remaining 19% of statistics have been added up incorrectly.

Anonymous said...

This Labour governments obsession with fighting the war on figures has made me very cynical.
If Tony & Co started giving me a weather report, I would have to go and look out of my window to get the real picture!

Anonymous said...

Dont they say statistics are like a bikini - what they show is rather interesting - but what they cover up is all important.

Anonymous said...

I hate to defend the government but the figures are "seasonally adjusted" by the ONS, and so in theory at least, have had any seasonal fluctuations removed.

And while they are of course, stressing the recent figures because they are favorable, the upward trend could actually be changing - eg the JSA claimant count has actually fallen for 3 months now, if only by 17,000.

Then again, falling unemployment means a tightening labour market,leading to rising wages,which of course adds to inflationary pressure. So what odds any improvement turns out to be rather shortlived as interest rates continue to rise?

Anonymous said...

PS - check out

for a straight(er) presentation of the stats.