Letters:Statistics: unemployment, crime, graphs and independent schools

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The Independent Online
I refer to today's front-page article "Statistics chief says jobs count is not believed" (19 December). Bill McLennan, head of the Government Statistical Service, will be glad to hear that he has support from no less an authority than the Chancell or of the Exchequer. In on-the-record, but largely unreported, oral evidence to the Treasury Select Committee, on 14 December, Kenneth Clark said that he preferred the Labour Force Survey, recommended by the International Labour Organisation, to the bene fit claimant count as a measure of unemployment.

As your graph sets out, the two measures of unemployment are seldom far from each other, but show significant short-term differences. According to chart 3.17 in the Budget "red book", the benefit claimant count is at present about 100,000 lower than the Labour Force Survey measure, and close to 2.5 million.

The main reason against the benefit claimant count is that it gives governments an incentive to massage the unemployment figures downwards by denying benefit to more claimants. Mr Clarke's chosen measure is more objective. Just at present, it also has the merit, from his point of view, of suggesting that the economy is still some way from over-heating and thus less in need of a further rise in interest rates.


19 December The writer is author of `Measuring the Economy'.