Dear Jonathan

EXPERIMENTAL LABOUR PRODUCTIVITY STATISTICS

We recently completed our review of the compliance with the Code of Practice for Statistics of ONS’s new suite of experimental labour productivity statistics:

We carried out the compliance check in order to review whether the National Statistics status of ONS’s existing labour productivity statistics could be extended to include these supplementary data. We welcome your development of labour productivity data, which add additional insight to help understand the workings of the UK economy.

We found a great many positive aspects in the way that ONS produces and presents these statistics, and welcome ONS having already made a range of improvements in response to emerging findings from our review. We also acknowledge in our detailed findings annexed to this letter that ONS has already set out initiatives to further enhance these statistics. Once appropriate actions have been taken by ONS to address the requirements set out in this letter, we will review extending the existing National Statistics status to these new statistics.

I welcome the level of commitment and engagement from your team to enhance the value and quality of these statistics. This suite of statistics extends the reach and scope of labour productivity statistics to provide insights to more-detailed sectors within each country and region and into what contributes to changes in productivity. This is a great illustration of the principle of continually developing the statistics in order to provide the insights that users need. We found many positive examples of ONS’s proactive approach to developing the insight from labour productivity data at UK and sub-UK levels. For example:

  • ONS’s Review of international best practice in the production of productivity statistics last year found many aspects of labour productivity statistics to be world leading but recommended several improvements, for example increased industrial granularity and faster production speeds. ONS’s article Improving estimations of labour productivity and international comparisons demonstrates the high priority that ONS attaches to meeting users’ needs for better statistics to make better decisions. The range and quality of the labour productivity data contained within both the established bulletin and the additional experimental outputs are very impressive.
  • ONS’s knowledge of the enhancements required to be in full compliance with the Code of Practice has been particularly helpful. For example, the statistics team had already considered the challenge of balancing the need for fresh and insightful commentary against the need for clear and consistent messages in the Labour productivity: UK statistical bulletins.
  • The increased breadth and granularity of these data allow users to answer questions such as:
    • To what extent do differences in regional productivity reflect differences in a region’s industrial mix?
    • Are some countries and regions systematically more or less productive across all industries?
    • Are industry-by-region productivity differences converging or diverging over time?

We also identify a few areas that ONS should strengthen in line with the Code before being able to consider the extension of the National Statistics designation.

  • Sharing a clear statement of data requirements with data suppliers significantly lowers the risk of data being delivered in an incomplete, untimely or incorrect manner. ONS should therefore create and share a clear statement of data requirements with the Ministry of Defence (MOD).
  • It is essential that the team producing these statistics understands the quality of the administrative data that it uses, in order to manage associated risks and ensure that it can produce statistics of sufficient quality to bear the weight being put on them. Consequently ONS should conduct a risk profile analysis of the MOD data to enable it to provide itself and users with assurance about quality. This analysis should be underpinned by the principles set out in our Quality assurance of administrative data toolkit.
  • Ensuring that adequate information is published about the potential impacts of combining the production industries.

Thank you again for engaging effectively with us during this review. We will keep in touch with the statistical team as it undertakes these actions, and have agreed with the team that it will report back to us by the end of August 2019 about how it has addressed these areas. Once appropriate actions have been taken by ONS to address the requirements set out below, we will review the National Statistics status of these statistics.

I am copying this letter to Marianthi Dunn as the responsible statistician for labour productivity statistics and to Katherine Kent responsible for ONS’s productivity statistics, and Grant Fitzner as the chief economist at ONS.

Yours sincerely

Mark Pont
Assessment Programme Lead

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