Tuesday, April 23, 2024

EDITORIAL: Job stats must stand test of time

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Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to [Benjamin] Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” – Mark Twain in Chapters From My Autobiography.
It is tempting to say the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) president is himself being “beguiled” by the contradictory unemployment figures of the Barbados Statistical Service (BSS) and Central Bank of Barbados.
The disagreement, at the very least, bemuses Mr Andy Armstrong. And when we consider the Central Bank’s Governor DeLisle Worrell has advised there will be more job losses in short time, the concern of Mr Armstrong – as of ours – is of all the more gravity when there is doubt about the reports of the Barbados Statistical Service and the Central Bank itself.
The BCCI hopes the two agencies can come to some agreement before they release the next set of jobless numbers.
The BSS, “the leading provider” of statistical data in Barbados must be hard to beat, and oblique questioning of its methodology may be seen as an act of undermining. To his credit, the Central?Bank?Governor has sought to rid us of such thought.
He has argued that the Central Bank and the BSS are not at odds. He has claimed that the bank’s 11 per cent unemployment statistic is consistent with the BSS’ 12.1 per cent.
Mr Worrell told the Press: “What the [BSS] survey says is that the rate of unemployment could have been 10.2 per cent, could have been 11 per cent, could have been 12.1 per cent, could have been 13.9 per cent, or any other number within that range . . . .
“To find out where the real number is, we had to assemble additional evidence . . . . So, at most there was a loss of 1 000 jobs between June and September. That gives us a rate of unemployment of approximately 11 per cent.
“Now 11 per cent sits within the range of 10.2 to 13.9, so it is entirely consistent with the results obtained by the Barbados Statistical Services . . . .”
Yet Mr Worrell says the Central Bank “only does surveys like this when the initial numbers obtained are inconsistent with what you observe normally”.
But while the Governor speaks to the period January to September, and raises unspecificity about BSS numbers between June and September, the BSS is as precise as ever that at June the publicly released unemployment rate for the second quarter of 2011 stood at 12.1 per cent.
And the BSS explains that the figures are based on the population of 2000, as the 2010 census data remains unavailable.
We would all rather not be “beguiled”. We would rather have more unquestioned statistics – clearly understood.

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