The UK economy has finally recovered. Today’s estimate by the Office for National Statistics of gross domestic product for the second quarter takes output (adjusted for inflation) to a new high, above the level of the first quarter of 2008*.
Hurrah. But, although welcome, this is nothing to celebrate. The government will not be ordering church bells to be rung. That the sum total of everything produced in the economy is only now returning to the levels of six years ago is astonishing. To give some context, the recession and recovery have lasted about nine months longer than the second world war. Read more
The 2013 British Social Attitude survey, released today, mainly focuses on questions of national identity and alongside asking everyone about questions on immigration and Britishness, asks Scots specifically a set of questions about their attitudes to nationhood and independence. Read more
As an aid to debates about the referendum on whether Scotland should be independent from the UK, Britain’s Office for National Statistics has published a compendium that allows for comparisons to be made between the four countries of the UK.
Thanks, in part, to devolution, the UK has four organisations that produce official statistics: the Office for National Statistics, the Scottish Government, StatsWales and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency who all release different surveys that gather data in different ways.
The Office for National Statistics has, for the first time, included estimates of the impact of prostitution and illegal drugs in the national accounts. By the ONS’ reckoning they add about £10bn to the British economy.
Estimates of anything to do with the black economy are always going to be uncertain at best, but the statistics available are pretty interesting. Read more
Voters will go to the polls in all 32 London boroughs, 36 metropolitan authorities and handful of other councils on May 22. This interactive map and cartogram shows the current state of parties in the local authorities holding elections, and some of the possible scenarios for the elections’ outcomes.
Before a measure of inequality can be calculated there are some questions that need to be answered: Chiefly, equality of what? Living standards? Wealth? Income? Or, perhaps, opportunity?
And what do you include? Is income measured before tax and benefits, or after? Do you include public goods in measures of living standards? How do you account for public assets and debts in wealth?
And who are the relevant people? The whole world or one country? Do you include students and children or just adults of working age?
The level of inequality measured will always depend on how these questions are answered.
The British Wealth and Assets survey, released today, provides measures of inequality in private wealth (so not including public debts and assets) between different households.
And households come in different shapes and sizes.
Individuals who are married or widowed are the most likely to live in a wealthier household. Whereas those who are separated, divorced or single are the least likely.
Wage growth has risen by more than inflation for the first time since 2010 and employment has grown by the largest amount for 24 years, according to figures released by the ONS today.
Given this context its worth taking a look at the performance of Britain’s labour market since the 2008 financial crisis.
1. Despite lacklustre GDP growth employment has been steadily increasing since 2010. Read more
by Nassos Stylianou and John Burn-Murdoch
Between May 22 and 25, some 400 million people will be eligible to vote in the European Parliament elections. But how many of them will actually turn up at the ballot box?
Following 2009 treaty changes, the European Parliament will for the first time have a more direct role in electing the president of the European Commission , the EU’s executive arm, giving May’s election added significance.
Despite the increasing influence of the European Parliament, the percentage of those voting to elect its members has fallen in every election, from 62 per cent in 1979’s inaugural direct elections through to 43 per cent in 2009.
At the last European elections five years ago, less than half of those eligible voted in 18 of the 27 member states. In six countries, the turnout was below 30 per cent. In one country, Slovakia, less than one in five of those eligible voted.
Turnout in Germany, France and Italy – founding members of the common market – has eroded by more than 20 percentage points since then. In the UK, turnout was already low at 32.3 per cent in 1979 and levels have remained consistently below 40 per cent ever since.
However, several of the newer member states such as Estonia, Latvia and Bulgaria recorded a surge in turnout in 2009.
The New York Times asked yesterday whether Americans with a car in the driveway, a flat-screen television and a computer with an Internet connection can be described as “poor”.
In the United States, material goods – televisions, computers and cars – are at their most affordable in ten years, all having steadily dropped in price since 2005.
However, the cost of items that have traditionally helped pull Americans out of poverty – education, childcare and healthcare – have become far more expensive. Families’ everyday expenses also remain under strain from a steady increase in the cost of food and little change in the price of housing.
What would the same analysis of the cost of living look like in the UK?
We created a UK version of the chart in the New York Times’ story, using real prices calculated from the British consumer price index. The story was pretty similar:
In an article written last Wednesday for Church Times, an Anglican newspaper, David Cameron claimed that Britain was a “Christian country”. In response fifty-five assorted public figures including academics, scientists and comedians wrote a letter to the Telegraph newspaper on Easter Sunday saying that it was no such thing and in fact: “repeated surveys, polls and studies show that most of us as individuals are not Christian in our beliefs or our religious identities.”
That depends on how the question is asked. The results of the 2011 census supports Cameron, with narrow majorities in England and Wales, and Scotland and an overwhelming majority in Northern Ireland identifying as Christian. Yet the 2012 British Social Attitudes Survey (BSAS) places Christians in the minority comprising only 46 per cent of the population. Read more
Business users breathed a sigh of relief on Thursday after the UK’s statistics authorities announced they have decided against scrapping the 200-year-old census. They plan instead to replace paper forms mailed to households with an online questionnaire. Read more
The March 19 Budget will be delivered against a background of broad economic positivity, but that tone may not sit well with everyone. Since George Osborne’s speech this time last year, fortunes have been mixed: the labour market has been slow to pick up in the East Midlands, the north has been hit by job closures and production of transport equipment has fallen.
Elena is a 26 year old Italian woman with a degree in child psychology who has been working in London as a nursery teacher for nearly a year. She moved to the UK after months spent looking in vain for a job in Tuscany, a region where the unemployment rate, at 7.9%, is well below the Italian average of 11.3%.
But Elena is not counted among more than 16,000 Italians that moved to the UK, according to official statistics updated for the FT by the Italian Ministry of Interior. These numbers are based on the registry of Italians living abroad (AIRE). Elena has a vague knowledge of this register but decided not to sign up for fear of losing important rights and services (including healthcare) in her home country. Read more
Members of the professional middle class in England and Wales have seen a rapid decline in their options when looking for a place to buy a house. The number of electoral wards where the average property price is above the affordability threshold has risen from just 101 (1.1 per cent) in 1995 to 489 (5.7 per cent) in 2012.
Aberdeen’s economy is booming. The gateway to Britain’s offshore oil and gas reserves, it has long helped to buoy up Scotland’s economy. And now with a wider economic recovery kicking in, it’s acting like Viagra on the area’s house prices.
Property values in Aberdeen and the surrounding area grew faster than anywhere else in the UK in 2013, according to new data produced by estate agents Savills exclusively for the FT.
Aberdeen has even outpaced last year’s hotspot, Elmbridge in Surrey. Read more
Surprisingly strong Christmas period retail sales data out today showed that UK shoppers spent 7.1 per cent more than in December 2012. Read more