Monthly Archives: May 2013

Emily Cadman

Earnings growth, unemployment numbers, the number of people in work. All vital barometers of the UK’s economic picture and the reason why the monthly ONS labour market statistics report never fails to make headline news.

But alongside these well known statistics, there are a few lesser viewed numbers worth keeping an eye on to gain a more nuanced picture of the labour market.

Actual hours worked

As it says on the tin, this estimates the actual number of hours worked in the economy, seasonally adjusted. In May, this hit a new high – above the pre-recession peak.

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Iain Duncan SmithLast year I got a call from someone at DWP. The call went roughly as follows:

DWP: We’ve got a story for you. Figures show that the benefit cap is working and it hasn’t even been brought in yet.

Me: Really? How do they do that?

DWP: Well the number of people who have come off benefits since we announced the policy is XXX thousand. [I forget the actual number the person used.]

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Professors Reinhart and Rogoff were embarrassed by a spreadsheet gaffe. Now statisticians within the Japanese government are smarting, after a private-sector economist pointed out errors that led them to overstate weakness in the economy during the fourth quarter last year.

In an announcement to the Japanese press club on Tuesday evening, the Cabinet Office said that a miscalculation of the value of trade in services between October and December meant that nominal gross domestic product was reported as shrinking by 0.3 per cent, rather than the true figure of 0.1 per cent.

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HSE data show more tower cranes have been erected in London since 2010 than in the rest of the UK combined

With Britain’s economy bumping along the bottom and official data prone to large revisions, analysts have been on the lookout for indicators of regional and national recovery.

Until now, no one spotted a good set of figures, quietly collated at the Health and Safety Executive. Cranes puncturing the skyline are the most visible indicator of economic dynamism and have often been used to gauge the heat in economies as diverse as Dubai or China and the torpor of Tokyo.

The HSE started requiring the operators of tower cranes – used for new office buildings, infrastructure, larger residential blocks and big public sector projects – to register their addresses in 2010, providing an invaluable snapshot of the building industry in action.

The results show a remarkable degree of concentration in London and its surrounding counties, signifying a gulf between the optimism about a prosperous future for the capital and pessimism in the rest of the UK.

With London home to only one in eight people in the UK, it has seen more tower cranes notified to the HSE than all the rest of the UK put together. Almost eight in 10 cranes were in London, the southeast and the east of England.

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