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ONS blunders over output stats

12 Aug 11 The Office of National Statistics has withdrawn its report on construction output that it published on Friday morning after discovery of an ‘arithmetical error’ that vastly overstated growth in the industry for the second quarter.

ONS has dug a hole for itself
ONS has dug a hole for itself

Having initially said that the sector grew 2.3% in the second quarter of 2011, ONS later issued a correction to say that actually growth was just 0.5%.

The first report also said that output had risen year-on-year, compared with Q2 2010, by 0.8%. In fact, ONS later said, the total volume of construction output in the second quarter of 2011 fell by 1.6% compared with the same quarter in 2010.

Several industry sectors were initially said to have grown but in the corrected version had actually shrunk.

In fact there was not a single number in the first version that was correct.

The cock-up by government statisticians adds fuel to already growing industry doubt about the accuracy and validity of official numbers, which have often been at odds with industry experience in the past year since ONS changed its methodology.

The corrected ONS Statistical Bulletin reported that:

All new work rose by 2.4% on Q1 2011 and repair and maintenance fell by 3.2%.

Year-on-year, all new work fell by 0.6%. Repair and maintenance fell by 3.6%.

Housing

The volume of new private housing work in Q2 2011 was up 5.2% on the previous quarter and 1.5% up on Q2 2010.

The volume of new work in the public housing sector in Q2 2011 was 2.8% higher than Q1 and 4.1% up on Q2 2010.

Infrastructure

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The volume of new infrastructure output in the second quarter of 2011 was 7.8% higher compared with the previous quarter and 8.8% higher than Q2 2010.

Public building

The volume of new work in the public non-housing sector (excluding infrastructure) in was down 4.8% quarter-on-quarter and down 8.1% year-on-year.

Private building

The volume of new construction work in the private industrial sector in Q2 2011 was down 4.0% on the previous quarter and down 8.4% on Q2 2010.

The volume of new private commercial was up 2.9% on Q1 2011 but down 2.2% on Q2 2010.

Housing repair and maintenance

The volume of housing repair and maintenance work (including improvement work) in the public sector in Q2 2011 was down 6.1% quarter-on-quarter and 9.7% year-on-year.

Private sector housing repair and maintenance was down 2.5% on the previous quarter and down 5.4% on the same period in 2010.

Non-housing repair and maintenance

The volume of repair and maintenance work in the non-housing sector was down 2.6% on the previous quarter and down 0.4% year-on year.

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