June 21, 2024

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Statistics agency steps up efforts to improve key UK jobs data

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Interviewers from the UK’s statistical agency have begun knocking on doors again in a concerted effort to make official data on the state of the labour market reliable enough for publication by December.

The Office for National Statistics said on Thursday that it had restarted in-home interviewing to boost responses to its labour force survey (LFS) as well as chasing up more people who had failed to respond initially.  

Last month, the agency scrapped its usual monthly publication of key job market data after the problem of a long-term decline in the response rate to the survey became so acute that August’s figures looked unusable.

Instead, it published bare-bones estimates of the employment and unemployment rate by using recent tax and benefits records to adjust earlier survey-based data.

Fixing the data problems is urgent because the Bank of England’s judgment on how long to keep interest rates high will hinge on how far tight monetary policy is hitting jobs and cooling wage pressures.

Andrew Bailey, the BoE governor, told a press conference on Thursday that the central bank’s view of the labour market was based on “a wide range of indicators”, not only the uncertain official measures, and that the Monetary Policy Committee would monitor “all the available data” carefully.

The BoE is concerned that ONS figures for earnings growth, as well as the LFS-based estimates of employment and inactivity, have recently diverged from alternative measures. But Bailey said that on any measure, wage growth was still at levels that were “inconsistent with meeting the inflation target”.  

Ben Broadbent, BoE deputy governor, said the MPC would not be “missing that much” information on employment in the two or three-month gap before the ONS was able to publish fuller figures again. But it would be harder to tell whether people who were…

2023-11-02 12:54:49

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