Green Shoots at the ONS?

After reading and watching the recent unemployment figures in the mainstream media recently, as usual I was left mentally gnashing my teeth at the smoke and mirrors. 'Economically inactive'? 'Claimant count'?

Eventually, with a sigh and sense of dread, I decided to draw my sword and enter the lair of spaghetti statistics that is the ONS, prepared to waste some time cutting through some Gordian knots of obfuscation, and then write up my sorry tale of economic woe under a nice factual green heading.

To my surprise, the place seems much improved since I was a bit sarky about it all back in 2009. Right at the top of the page is a clear figure for 'employment rate' – 71%. In other words, 29% of people of working age aren't working. That was easy.

There's clear graphs aplenty, fairly easy to understand analysis, even links to information on statistical accuracy. They're even doing youtube videos and those infographic things that apparently everyone likes. Really, there's no point in me writing anything about it – if you want just the basic facts on employment, you can go and look at them for yourself.

It's not perfect, of course – nothing ever is – but at least it advances understanding a bit, since now a reader can spend more time investigating some of the subtler underlying issues, rather than wasting time on things that should be easy.

One thing that immediately furrowed my brow was the fact that all the graphs only cover the period from the start of the last financial crisis to the present day. If I've learned anything from trying to fathom economics, it's that if you've only got 5 years of data, you probably haven't got the full picture. I suppose the bulletin is supposed to be a short-range sort of thing, but it would be nice to have a bit of broader context too.