Statistics are they useful, meaningless or are they there to be manipulated for your own ends?

Not a week goes by without another government department , union, institute or consultancy releasing a plethora of statistics about almost anything you care to think about.  The economy, manufacturing, the service sector and employment; the number of jobless is one area where a government minister will tell us it’s great news the total number of jobless has fallen.  Sounds great doesn’t it we can all take a sigh of relief can’t we?

On the surface that is fantastic but then we get the statistics from the Office for National Statistics which confirms what the minister said. You are dumbstruck at this point aren’t you a government minister actually told us the truth. Yes he did but a version of the truth that suited at the time for that televised soundbite. The real truth is a mixed bag that paints a slightly different picture.  Let’s look at the figures in more detail;

On the Plus side

  • The number of jobseekers dropped by 13,700 to 1.59 m in April
  • The number of people with jobs rose by 105,000 to 29.23m
  • The number of self employed rose by 89,000 to 4.1m
  • Exports rose to a 36 year high

The Government is also putting incentives forward for firms to take on apprentices and the long term unemployed.

On the minus side

  • The number in part time jobs who want a full time job rose by 73,000 to 1.4m.  The highest total since records began in 1992
  • The number unemployed for more than a year rose by 27,000 to 887,000
  • Youth unemployment is very high and a concern
  • The number of self employed rose by 89,000 to 4.1m

 The IMF is telling the chancellor that Britain is not out of the woods and interest rates need to be cut along with the severity of austerity measures There are still significant job cuts to come in 2102/13 in the public sector Another cohort of School, College and University graduates will join the job market in July. The Euro zone crisis will more than likely have a further negative impact on Britain

The picture doesn’t look quite as rosy after reading those statistics as the initial soundbite would make you believe. The figures for the next quarter should prove to be interesting and I wonder what they will show if the above exercise is repeated?  We have all ignored statistics that don’t fit our view so how do you use statistics?

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