I want to draw your attention to a short report from the Economic Statistic Centre of Excellence (ESCE) issued on 14 January. The report’s authors question the current accuracy of the recent key ONS employment data/estimates, the Labour Force Survey (LFS). Data they say, through no fault of their own, ONS has compiled using assumptions, the validity of which ESCE report questions, given the unprecedented effects of covid-19 on the well-established, tried and tested patterns. This is then compounded by the unavoidable cancellation of key surveys, IPS included and, lower than normal levels of response to those surveys still being undertaken. Even with a layman’s level of understanding of statistics, I can appreciate that quality of both the assumptions and results of the surveys used in conjunction with them to create national estimates, will be critical to the quality of those estimates, like the LFS. I also appreciate it is rare for either the assumptions or the surveys to be critically weakened by external events and unprecedented for it to happen to both concurrently, as appears could be the case in 2020.
The report does not claim to be definitive but rather says that the concerns that it raises about LFS are worthy of further, urgent investigation. I tend to agree and it is in support of that argument that I am acting to try and help make sure the issues are aired nationally and confirmed or denied as a matter of urgency. I do so because if they are right, in terms of scale and/or the nature of employments most effected, it could well have profound implications for our understanding of and the strategies used to support, tourism and the visitor economy, now and well into any future recovery.
I think it is important to read the report (blog) which runs to approximately 4 sides, in full and draw your own conclusions. In essence, what I believe it suggests is that due to covid-19 impacts on themselves or their employment a figure of up to 1.3m European and foreign adults of working age may have left the UK last year unrecorded within the LFS or elsewhere. This potential 1.3m includes, they believe, a disproportionately high number of those most likely to have been employed in hospitality, arts and entertainment. London is said to have been particularly effected.
The report itself doesn’t say it but if they are correct, in the short term that might, for example, reduce some of the secondary impacts on the UK economy (a good thing?) but equally it could result in an underestimate of scale and direct damage done to those industries involved (a bad thing)? Once a recovery starts some of those 1.3m may not be inclined or, due to the concurrent effects of BREXIT I am presuming, may not be able to return to the UK to resume their former employment? That might be a positive initially, reducing competition for scarce job opportunities but sooner or later it could well become a major negative holding back full recovery and prospects for future development due to skills and workforce shortages? There could of course be many other potential implications I have not yet even considered.
All of this is speculation but I can speculate because of the uncertainties raised by the Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence report. I do so to illustrate why I have a hunch that their report may be far more important than it might initially appears and to show why I might think that this is something that may need to be formally aired nationally and resolved, one way or the other, as soon as it can be. I hope you will agree; if you do, or especially if you don’t, please let me know, if only to help me to decide how much time and effort, if any, to throw behind what for now is essentially an exercise in red flag waving. Hopefully, others may have also picked up on the potential significance and it will not be an overly onerous task.
I have added the link to the report to our C19 research page on Britishdestinations.net. Access it from the C19 research menu tab, or go direct to it at: https://britishdestinations.net/c19-research/