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18 August 2011

Osborne’s cheerleaders have got their facts wrong

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

By David Blanchflower

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.”

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THANK YOU

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.

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