Tuesday, 25 January 2011

You don't need a weatherman

A spokesman for British Weather Services (who they?) has decided to pipe up with his views about economics. (Back story for non-British readers: GDP fell by 0.5%, and this has partly been attributed to the worst winter for decades, including much snow.)

From Liberal Conspiracy, who are clearly thrilled:

The British Weather Services have today sent out a press release disputing the chancellor George Osborne’s claim that snow was to blame for the worsening GDP figures.

For a kick-off, this wasn't some excuse dreamt up by George Osborne. It was talked about at the time and the Office of National Statistics explicitly said:

The GDP estimate was significantly affected by the bad weather in December

Unless the ONS is secretly run by Tory apologists, this would seem to be a reasonable quote from a reliable source. But back to the press release:

Senior Risk Meteorologist Jim Dale says, “For every drop of rain or flake of snow, for every fall and rise in temperature there is a commensurate rise and fall in the demand and supply of the UK’s good and services. It’s our job to provide to companies big and small the very telling figures that link the weather numbers with what actually went on re: performance.”

(nb. British Weather Services are a company who supply meteorological services to other companies and will no doubt be chuffed with the publicity they're getting.)

There is no doubt that the very severe conditions of late November and December would have impacted on UK plc – but there are two sides to every story, Jim explains. "Where there is a weather loser there tends to be a weather winner on the opposite end of the fence, so construction and high street shops may have had it bad for example, but retailers selling cold weather items such as winter clothing, motor factors and comfort foods would have done well out of the ice and snow, not to mention warm and inviting indoor shopping centres, many of which boasted record footfall figures during the period."

This is utter drivel. The economy was damaged by the horrendous weather in December because people couldn't go to work and couldn't get to the shops. It wasn't a question of intending to buy some sunglasses and Bermuda shorts and ending up buying a pair of gloves and a good, thick jumper instead. It was a question of not being able to go shopping at what is traditionally the busiest shopping month of the year.

This is borne out by the ONS figures, which show:

Transport, storage and communication decreased by 0.8 per cent, compared with an increase of 2.0 per cent in the previous quarter. Land transport contributed most to the decline in this quarter.

Land transport, eh? How could that possibly be affected by continuous snow, black ice and roads being closed for days on end? But, never mind, I suppose the businesses who were relying on these deliveries could have always spent their money on winter clothing, comfort food and "motor factors".

Distribution, hotels and restaurants decreased by 0.5 per cent, compared with an increase of 0.8 per cent in the previous quarter. Hotels and restaurants contributed most to the decline in this quarter.

So fewer people go restaurants when it's -10 outside and howling a blizzard outside. Fancy that.

Now, I realise that some people are keen to see the country have a double-dip recession for political reasons, but they're going to have to do better than rely on a dodgy press release from a private weather company. By the way, the ONS figures also show construction output increasing by 3.3% (contrary to Dale's expert view), manufacturing increased by 1.4% and total production increased by 0.9% so keep the schadenfraude on ice for the time being.


Anonymous said...

Heh, Jim Dale.
Ooh er missus, what a carry on.

Though probably get more sense from a Carry-on film.

Bald headed John.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Chip shop anecdote here. Every non-running day lost my company 20% of our contractual income, whereas our contracted employees were rightly entitled to 100% of their wages.

That's a £30,000 loss to GDP right there. Unfortunately, we weren't able to set up a gloves and jumpers business in time to offset our lack of national contribution.

I don't believe we were alone in that. ;)