Monthly Archives: August 2013

Kate Allen

US economic growth has been revised upwards to 2.5 per cent. A pretty impressive rate, given that the UK is currently stagnating at just 0.7 per cent. On the other hand, it looks less impressive when compared to China’s booming 7.6 per cent (even though, for China, that’s a slowdown).

But wait a minute. Economists across the land are howling in pain at this jumble of misinterpretation. These rates aren’t comparable at all – because they’re all measuring different things. Read more

Kate Allen

The number of working-age households in the UK has fallen for the first time since data collection began nearly 20 years ago, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Household growth has been fairly steady over the past two decades, with the overall population continuing to grow, and this is the first time figures* have actually dropped. Pressures such as low real wage growth and rising housing costs have created economic constraints in recent years which could help to explain the dramatic shift.

UK households

In particular, the numbers of single-person and lone parent households have fallen, hinting at housing affordability pressures. The number of couples with dependent children (under 18s) rose year-on-year, suggesting that families may be staying together rather than separating. Read more

The “oldest old” – generally defined as those aged 80 or 85 and over – are rising as a percentage of total population in both developed and emerging economies. So the question arises about how the healthcare costs of this increasingly frail group should be shared.

In the US, where health expenditure per capita is roughly twice that of any other developed economy, the question is particularly vexed. Recent proposals to rein in Medicare, which provides health care for those aged 65 and over, include measures that would require individuals to pay more from their own pockets than they do right now. Read more

by Roger Blitz, FT leisure industries correspondent

Weather prospects are mixed for the UK’s tourist attractions and businesses over this long late-summer bank holiday weekend. But the sector has received a boost from new data showing that tourism outflanked all other sectors in jobs growth in the year before the London Olympic Games. Read more

Emerging markets have been pummelled since May when talk of the US Federal Reserve reducing its asset purchase programme began. Worries that the end of cheap money would raise borrowing costs and reverse the massive inflows that emerging markets had enjoyed since western central banks introduced extraordinary measures in 2009, has taken its toll particularly on markets that suffer from current account deficits. Central banks of emerging markets have started to act to shore up their currencies and confidence, but how do these economies stack up against each other in terms of economic health, and which ones are more vulnerable?

Kate Allen

The rupee is tumbling once more – and for those with long memories, this all looks rather familiar.

In 1991 investors deserted India as turbulence descended: prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated and what’s now known as the Balance of Payments Crisis gripped the country.

The episode was enough to put a serious dent in the country’s booming economic growth.

India GDP

What caused it? Read more

Chris Cook

One of my perennial moans about Britain is the lousy state of its badly funded thinktanks: there are noble exceptions, but too few. This weekend, the Centre for Policy Studies published a piece arguing that the BBC was not impartial in its choice of stories nor its presentation of them; leftier thinktanks, it reckoned, get more coverage than rightier ones and an easier ride. I claim no expertise in that. I was more interested by the maths: the conclusions may well be right, but the analysis is bizarre.

The work relies upon a ranking of how left- or rightwing thinktanks are, which is drawn from the number of mentions of those thinktanks in articles in the Guardian (for the left) and the Telegraph (on the right). There are many, many things wrong with the analysis. Read more

The data show that the big money owners continue to exercise their financial muscle – and as a result, this year could be on track to break the 2008 spending record.

Gross Premier League transfer spend so far is close to £370m, a 50 per cent increase on the same period in 2012 – and there are still two weeks left before a Sky Sports presenter corners QPR manager Harry Redknapp, while sitting in his Land Rover, to ask his expert opinion. Read more

Kate Allen

House prices in Britain may be booming once more.

But unlike the bubble of the last decade, this one is very narrowly focused. In fact, it’s really only London that’s seen any growth since the previous national average house price peak in 2008.

Good news for Londoners. But they should put down the champagne: in fact, most of them haven’t benefited that much at all.

Most areas have seen some price growth since 2008. But there are just a handful of stand-out winners. And – yes, even in London – some people have actually seen their house prices fall.

London winners and losers

The clearest winners are the two historic cities: London and Westminster. Yes, prices there really have soared since 2008. The average house price in Westminster topped £1m for the first time last year and is now at £1.3m; up from £746,000 five years earlier.

Perhaps more surprisingly, two rather more down-at-heel boroughs, Southwark and Hackney, are also seeing booming prices. They’ve even managed to push perhaps the most desirable borough of them all, Kensington & Chelsea, into fifth place. Read more

Emily Cadman

Enjoying a quiet August at work? Well maybe it is time to catch up on your privacy policy reading.

According to a new report from Deloitte it would take 25 minutes for an average user to read and comprehend a standard privacy policy. Based on ONS estimations that the average user visits 75 new websites a year, that equates to 31 hours a year. Read more

Kate Allen

by Kate Allen and Roger Blitz

Usain Bolt lines up in Moscow for this weekend’s athletics World Championships as red-hot favourite for the 100m sprint title.

This chart shows all the official International Association of Athletics Federation times run by men in the 100m in under 10 seconds. It has become a relatively common achievement in the past few decades, but Bolt is a phenomenon, head and shoulders above every runner in the history of the sport – even those later disqualified for having taken performance-enhancing drugs.

 Read more

Emily Cadman

Further confirmation – if it was needed – of how rapidly the media industry is changing comes in today’s ONS statistical bulletin on internet access.

This year, for the first time, the majority of adults in the UK report reading news online (55 percent), up from 47 percent in 2012. And the pace of adoption has been rapid.

Whilst the growth in interest in online news offers opportunities for publishers, coincidentally, an interesting study out today from City University’s Neil Thurman provides a caveat. It suggests that despite the big increase in online readership substantially more reader time is spent on print editions than online.

But, the clear theme of the ONS bulletin is how deeply the internet has become embedded in daily life to an extent unimaginable only a few years ago. Read more

Kate Allen

Last month, in advance of a report on 14 hospital trusts with relatively high death rates, it was widely reported that there had been 13,000 “unnecessary” deaths.

But, as a leading academic points out in today’s British Medical Journal, this demonstrates an epic lack of understanding of the concept of an average.

The 13,000 figure is the difference between the actual number of deaths in the 14 hospitals compared to the “expected” level. But what some writers failed to understand is that the “expected” level equated to the national average. As a result much of the coverage was seriously misleading, according to David Spiegelhalter, Winton professor for the public understanding of risk at the University of Cambridge. Read more

Kate Allen

It’s the big demographic story you haven’t even heard of – or is it?

Since the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition came to power in May 2010, British people have been leaving the country in droves.

The number of British emigrants has risen from 128,000 to 154,000 in the past three years, while those returning to Britain has fallen from 96,000 to 79,000. The consequence is that British net migration has more than doubled.

British migration

But hold fire – all is not what it seems.

The change in emigration numbers is within the margin of error – it’s not statistically significant. In layman’s terms, that means the variations are random noise, not a meaningful change.

Let this be a clear warning: you may not know what you think you know. Read more

Kate Allen

Thirty new peers have been appointed to the British House of Lords. The second chamber of the UK’s legislative system, the unelected body is the second-largest legislative body in the world, after the National People’s Congress of China.

Both of the UK’s Houses of Parliament fall into the top ten. Read more