How well is Britain’s economy doing? The default answer has always been to look at GDP – which is why legions of city analysts are anxiously hunched over their screens at precisely 9.30am every quarter.
But over the past decade there has been widespread acceptance that this headline number doesn’t adequately describe whether most people are in fact feeling better off. Read more
The central banks might be keeping us guessing, but businesses have no doubts where they first expect interest rates to rise.
Forty-nine per cent of respondents to the latest FT/Economist Global Business Barometer said that the US Federal Reserve would be the first to raise rates, with the Bank of England a distant second with a 14 per cent share. Read more
Are you a wealth accumulator, making good progress or burdened by debt? New research from think-tank the Smith Institute attempts to put a human face on all those distributional graphs of wealth inequality.
The report, published on Wednesday, calculates that property ownership in the UK, having risen dramatically in the last century, has peaked at 67 per cent of households and is likely to fall to 60 per cent by 2025. Read more
What to do about British manufacturing? There is hardly a politician in the country who hasn’t called for the sector to get a boost. But the Office for National Statistics is set to stress today that popular perceptions manufacturing is disappearing from the UK are wide of the mark.
New analysis, to be presented by ONS chief economist Joe Grice at a conference on the changing shape of manufacturing, will focus on the sector’s move up the value chain despite an unquestioned reduction in employee numbers. Read more
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With housing never off the front pages, you’d expect housing statistics to be an area Britain would excel.
It turns out that isn’t quite the case.
Last November, in response to demands for a measure of inflation which included the costs of housing services associated with owning, maintaining and living in one’s own home, the ONS introduced a new index called the CPIH.
It used a measure called rental equivalence – the rent someone could expect to pay to live in an equivalent home – as a proxy for the costs faced by the owner.
But today, less than a year later, the UK Statistics Agency announced it has stripped the CPIH of status as an national statistic (the top rank of official statistics)* due to methodological concerns (PDF). Read more
Facts might be sacred, but statistics are somewhat more pliable.
As my colleague Chris Giles revealed this morning, the introduction of global accounting standards in the UK this autumn is set to propel Britain up the savings ratio rankings.
We don’t know yet whether this means Britain’s reputation as a spendthrift nation is on the way out, but there is little doubt statistical changes can shape the way we think about countries.
1. Italy’s 1987 “Il sorpasso”
How do you measure the black economy? Well, when Italy took its first stab at it in 1987, its economy grew by 18 per cent overnight, overtaking Britain in the international rankings and prompting celebrations in Rome.
Italy’s GDP figures today are still adjusted to take account of the notoriously large size of the shadow economy. Estimates put it at between 20 and 25 per cent of its total GDP, compared to an average among industrial countries of some 15 per cent. Read more