Osborne's cheerleaders have got their facts wrong

One extra bank holiday can't explain the dramatic decline in working hours.

David Smith of the Sunday Times seems to enjoy taking potshots at me on his blog. This time, he has criticised the blog I posted yesterday regarding the decline in working hours, because he seems unable to believe that the economy is tanking. He, of course, has been one of Osborne's main cheerleaders in the press and has constantly argued that the recovery is in full force and all is well in the UK economy. He has called the recovery again and again and has been proved wrong again and again.

This is what he said under the headline "Blanchflower and the missing hours":

But hang on a second, didn't we have an extra bank holiday in the second quarter? And wouldn't that naturally lead to a fall in hours worked? Of course it would. In fact, there's an 11m drop in weekly hours worked between the first and second quarters. The sequence of weekly hours worked numbers, Q2 2010 917.6m, Q3 921.1m, Q4 920.7m, Q1 2011 921.9m, Q2 910.6m, points strongly to a bank holiday effect, as the Office for National Statistics says in its explanatory notes.

He went on: "Danny needs to get his facts straight."

Actually, David needs to get his facts straight as first, he clearly didn't read the explanatory notes that say, and I quote, "The quarterly falls in the estimates of total hours worked and average weekly hours were PARTLY due to an additional public holiday on 29 April 2011 (for the Royal Wedding) which occurred four days after the Easter Monday public holiday."

That doesn't quite cut it, as we can see from the monthly data from the ONS website that hours of work were around the same level in March, April and May (see below).

2010 May 917.6 hours
2010 Jun 921.3 hours
2010 Jul 919.7 hours
2010 Aug 921.1 hours
2010 Sep 918.8 hours
2010 Oct 914.7hours
2010 Nov 920.7 hours
2010 Dec 925.4 hours
2011 Jan 929.6 hours
2011 Feb 921.9 hours
2011 Mar 910.9 hours
2011 Apr 911.0 hours
2011 May 910.6 hours

Good try David. So how exactly would a bank holiday in April lower hours in March or May? Time to get your facts straight, mate, before coming after yours truly. The coalition is responsible for reductions in the demand for labour, hence the poor spending data.

PS Note Smith's coalition supporting spin today on his website. The media are full of the disappointing retail sales data but Smith's headline today is "Retail sales edge up". On 14 August, it was: "Labour's VAT plan would threaten Britain's AAA rating". It is pretty easy to see his true colours.

David Blanchflower is economics editor of the New Statesman and professor of economics at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire

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Andy Burnham's full speech on attack: "Manchester is waking up to the most difficult of dawns"

"We are grieving today, but we are strong."

Following Monday night's terror attack on an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena, newly elected mayor of the city Andy Burnham, gave a speech outside Manchester Town Hall on Tuesday morning, the full text of which is below: 

After our darkest of nights, Manchester is today waking up to the most difficult of dawns. 

It’s hard to believe what has happened here in the last few hours and to put into words the shock, anger and hurt that we feel today.

These were children, young people and their families that those responsible chose to terrorise and kill.

This was an evil act. Our first thoughts are with the families of those killed and injured. And we will do whatever we can to support them.

We are grieving today, but we are strong. Today it will be business as usual as far as possible in our great city.

I want to thank the hundreds of police, fire and ambulance staff who worked throughout the night in the most difficult circumstances imaginable.

We have had messages of support from cities around the country and across the world, and we want to thank them for that.

But lastly I wanted to thank the people of Manchester. Even in the minute after the attack, they opened their doors to strangers and drove them away from danger.

They gave the best possible immediate response to those who seek to divide us and it will be that spirit of Manchester that will prevail and hold us together.

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