The official employment figures released today show that the construction industry has lost just 40,000 jobs.
That clearly is rubbish.
Were the figures accurate and were the construction output figures accurate it would suggest that as the industry has plunged into recession overall labour productivity for the construction sector has fallen by about 16%.
OK there may be a bit of a lag effect, but ultimately the output is in large part down to the people doing it, so I'd be surprised if the lag is much in such a robust industry as construction.
Indeed, historic data suggests that construction jobs go in anticipation of a downturn (see Graph 1).
So, unless I can be advised differently or unless I have missed something obvious, I can draw no other conclusion than these particular figures are not worth the paper they are written on.
Indeed they may prove worse than useless.
Leaving aside what we know from our own experience, a quick look at the redundancy (graph 2) and vacancy figures (graph 3) suggest that jobs are being lost at an alarming rate and there are fewer jobs for people to apply for once they have been made redundant.
And let's look at the claimant count data. I just did a quick eyeball and picked a few construction trades out from the figures that represent a proportion of the workforce.
The trades to be precise were: Electricians, Electricians, electrical fitters; Steel erectors; Bricklayers, masons; Roofers, roof tilers and slaters; Plumbers, heating and ventilating engineers; Carpenters and joiners; Glaziers, window fabricators and fitters; Construction trades n.e.c.; Plasterers; Floorers and wall tilers; Painters and decorators.
In April last year the claimant count for these registered at 45,640. In April this year it was 122,185. That is a rise of almost 77,000 and it doesn't include all those other trades associated with construction. It doesn't account for the fact that many of these lost workers will have found jobs outside of construction.
There are 10,000 more bricklayers alone on the dole than a year ago. That is three times as many.
Ok, maybe, and we should be at least advised of this, there has been a net increase in foreign workers that has over compensated for the increase in UK nationals on the dole.
For my money that is unlikely, as I suspect there may be more foreign workers leaving than joining the ranks of the construction workers in the UK at present.
All other data point to the workforce jobs data as being flawed. In one sense this would not matter if this data were being ignored.
The problem with bad data is that they are used as evidence by those sufficiently unknowledgeable or unthinking not to question them in the light of reality.
I suggest that the industry organisations should get themselves on the case quickly here, lest some three headed wise monkey starts to make policy decisions based on this nonsense.