Monthly Archives: March 2012

Chris Cook

New Hefce data show England is experiencing the start of a market in undergraduate places with a very sudden shock. Read more

Emily Cadman

It’s perhaps no surprise that today’s UK ONS paper, a component of its measuring national wellbeing programme appears to show a nation unhappy with its work life balance, with 48 per cent reporting low satisfaction rates. It has become someone of a truism that long-hour-working Britons are unhappy with their lot. But are they really?

The most interesting part of the release is the apparent disconnect between individuals’ attitudes when they assess their work and leisure satisfaction levels separately and together.


Somewhat, mostly or completely satisfied(%)

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By Paul Hodges

Chemical prices might not be the first forecasting indicator that springs to mind, but over the recent economic crisis benzene in particular has highlighted economic shifts well before more traditional metrics.

Benzene’s 40 million tonnes of global sales are a key raw material for a very diverse group of end-products, including polystyrene cups, nylon clothing and carpets, pesticides and dyes. Equally, as it is produced from crude oil, benzene provides a highly-sensitive barometer of consumer reactions to changing energy prices.

A key metric is its price premium to naphtha (its oil-based feedstock). The chart above shows this metric since the crisis began in (using ICIS pricing data).

• Typically, the premium has found a floor at $150/tonne
• But it collapsed during October 2008, remaining very weak until February 2009
• The depth of the downturn was also demonstrated by the premium becoming a discount
• It then staged a sharp recovery, which took it back above the $150/t level
Therefore, benzene highlighted, well ahead of other indicators, both the downturn in the wider economy and the equally sudden upturn. Its recent performance therefore merits close attention. Read more

Chris Giles

Find out how your living standard compares.

Select the range of years that contains your date of birth and watch as the graphic draws the spread of UK household incomes for people of your generation.

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Chris Cook

One curiosity which is often overlooked in social policy discussion is who actually pays which taxes. Today, the Chancellor said that his reforming Budget would create:

A tax system where millions of the lowest paid are lifted out of tax altogether

He is referring to the policy of raising the income tax threshold towards a target of £10,000. But it is a mistake to say people below that line will be “out of tax”. Here is a graph, based on table 14 of this ONS document, showing how the tax burden varies.

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Martin Stabe

The Business Bellwether, run jointly by the Financial Times and the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators, canvassed the views of company secretaries from the FTSE 350 on a wide range of issues.

A few people have asked me for more data and information on the jinxed generation article in Saturday’s paper, which shows the youngest cohort of people entering the labour market were the first in over 50 years not to have higher living standards then their immediate forebears.

This post will be quite long and full of charts. It essentially shows our working. Read more

The latest generation to enter the UK labour market is doing no better than those that came before, while living standards among people of retirement age are much higher than their forebears’, this interactive graphic of new FT research shows.

This chart shows the median disposable income of UK households, grouped by the age of the head of the household in ten-year cohorts. It is based on data from the Family Expenditure Survey and the Family Resources Survey that have been collected since the 1960s. These datasets, which underpin the government’s official poverty and inequality figures, containing household income information on over 730,000 households collected between 1961 and 2009-10.

Keith Fray

The popular and oft-quoted definition of a recession is two successive quarters or more of falling output, usually referred to as the ‘technical’ definition.

It is of course not really very ‘technical’ – and surprisingly is entirely unofficial. It is an easily measurable and easily understood rule of thumb that suits headlines rather than analysis. Read more

As the Greek debt-swap nears completion, a grey market for the new bonds is operating under rules designed for developing countries. In this video James Mackintosh, the FT’s investment editor, analyses whether investors should regard the price as a bargain or an invitation to be a victim of the next default.

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UK chancellor George Osborne will deliver his budget to parliament on March 21 against a gloomy economic backdrop.

But how bad are the indicators in a historical context? This interactive graphic explores some of the main indicators from the 1930s to now.

Chris Cook

Your birthday matters: children who are older when they start school as 4 year-olds outperform their peers. This is not a small effect, nor does it peter out as they get older. We can spot it easily at the national level among 16 year-olds. Read more