Iain Bell to Ed Humpherson: Covid-19 infection survey publication time

Dear Ed,

We continue to review many aspects of statistical production and publication with regards to informing measures to respond COVID-19.

The latest results of the COVID-19 Infection Survey were published at 11am today, brought forward from the originally scheduled 12pm publication time. This was discussed and agreed between ONS and the OSR before the publication. The decision was made as part of understanding emerging operational requirements for the latest evidence on COVID-19 infection rates and incidence.

We anticipate that forthcoming weekly publications of results from the COVID-19 Infection Survey will be at 12pm.

Yours sincerely

 

Iain Bell

Deputy National Statistician and Director General, Population and Public Policy

Office for National Statistics

 

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Ed Humpherson response to Iain Bell: Covid-19 infection survey publication time

Ed Humpherson response to Peter Benton: Temporary suspension of National Statistics designation for overseas travel and tourism statistics

Dear Pete 

 TEMPORARY SUSPENSION OF NATIONAL STATISTICS DESIGNATION: OVERSEAS TRAVEL AND TOURISM STATISTICS 

Thank you for your letter of 22 July, regarding statistics on overseas travel and tourismGiven the suspension of the International Passenger Survey in mid-March which provides the underlying data for these statistics, I support your decision to temporarily remove the National Statistics designation. 

I welcome your plans to publish data for the first quarter of 2020 later this weekwhich will be highly valued by users. I encourage you to ensure that the impact of the missing March data on the quality and interpretation of the statistics is communicated clearly. am pleased to hear that you have been engaging with users about the impact of COVID-19 on these statistics and encourage you to continue this over the coming months as you plan for the safe return of the survey. 

We will continue to engage with your statisticians, via our Travel, Transport and Tourism team, and look forward to considering the restoration of National Statistics status once data collection has resumed and you are assured the statistics can meet the standards expected by the Code of Practice for Statistics. 

 Yours sincerely 

 

Ed Humpherson 

Director General for Regulation 

 

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Peter Benton to Ed Humpherson: Temporary suspension of National Statistics designation for overseas travel and tourism statistics

Peter Benton to Ed Humpherson: Temporary suspension of National Statistics designation for overseas travel and tourism statistics

Dear Ed,

I am writing to ask you to consider a temporary suspension of the National Statistics status for the international travel and tourism estimates based on the International Passenger Survey (IPS).

The IPS stopped interviewing on 16th March 2020 due to safety concerns arising from the Covid-19 situation. It has been possible to produce estimates both for March and for the first quarter of 2020, but we are unable to confirm that the estimates fully meet the required quality standards demanded of National Statistics.

This is partly because the volume of data is greatly reduced for March. Also, we cannot be certain that the data obtained for March are representative: that the characteristics of passengers interviewed in the first half of the month represent those travelling in the second half of the month. Traveller numbers were decreasing at this time but had not yet fallen to the extremely low numbers seen from April onwards.

We have investigated the impact that the lack of data for the last two weeks of March will have on the Q1 2020 and March 2020 estimates. The data is weighted to the total traffic numbers provided at a monthly and quarterly level by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the Department for Transport (DfT). Therefore, we are weighting an incomplete dataset to the complete traffic figures which are not suitable for weighting at a weekly level. Travel started to be significantly affected towards the end of March as COVID-19 restrictions started to come into force. Hence, our investigation suggests that the IPS estimates for March and Q1 2020 have a degree of uncertainty that makes it preferable to suspend National Statistics status for this period. We have nonetheless made every effort to ensure that the estimates are of the highest possible quality in the circumstances.

Given the constraints on data collection experienced by the IPS, I am requesting temporary de-designation of travel and tourism statistics based on the survey on the basis set out by the published COVID-19 guidance on the suspension of National Statistics status.

Subject to your agreement, we propose to remove National Statistics labelling for March and Quarter 1 of 2020 outputs in the first instance. The survey’s output is suspended for the period from April 2020 until interviewing resumes. It may be advisable to continue the suspension of National Statistics status for a further limited period after interviewing resumes,depending on our assessment of the quality of data obtained.

Yours sincerely,

 

Peter Benton

Director of Population and Public Policy Operations, Office for National Statistics

 

Related Links

Ed Humpherson response to Peter Benton: Temporary suspension of National Statistics designation for overseas travel and tourism statistics

Ed Humpherson to Iain Bell: Coronavirus (Covid-19) Infection Survey statistics

Dear Iain

CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) INFECTION SURVEY STATISTICS

Following conversations with your team, I am happy to confirm the exemption from the Code of Practice for Statistics’ standard publication time of 9.30am to permit a later release time of noon each Friday for statistics from the COVID-19 infection survey.

This new time allows additional time for preparing and assuring the quality of the release and messaging which is important as the complexity of the analysis grows. I welcome the team’s commitment to keep the release time under review as the survey continues to evolve.

Yours sincerely

 

Ed Humpherson

Director General for Regulation

Ed Humpherson to Sir Ian Diamond: Review of Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection survey

Dear Sir Ian

CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) INFECTION SURVEY

I am writing to endorse the approach taken by ONS and partners in developing new statistics on COVID-19 infection. The statistics, published first from a pilot study in England estimate how many people have the COVID-19 infection, and how many are likely to have had the infection, even if they did not realise it at the time. This information is important for scientists and decision-makers trying to model the impact of COVID-19, because it makes models better able to predict the effect of school closures, social distancing, and other measures aimed at reducing the spread of the virus.

My team has conducted a rapid regulatory review of these statistics. We have reviewed the extent to which they have been produced in accordance with the Code of Practice’s Trustworthiness, Quality and Value pillars, while taking account of the pressures that ONS has faced to deliver timely statistics about a rapidly evolving national emergency. I really appreciate the time that your colleagues have spent talking through the development of the survey with my team. A summary of our findings, including recommendations, is set out below.

Value

  • ONS’s agility in launching and resourcing this new survey has been remarkable. The rapid development of these statistics is essential in helping better understand the spread of the disease. The data will help scientists and the government work out how to manage the pandemic better, in order to save lives and protect the country’s health and care services from being overwhelmed.
  • The commitment shown by the team to develop, improve and continue to evolve the presentation of the statistics has already been commendable. The statistics are being presented alongside an already crowded, and sometimes confusing, landscape of other data. ONS will need to consider carefully how it communicates clearly and unambiguously to all types of user what the basis for these statistics is and how it differs from others they might have seen. ONS’s plans to publish blogs should help to provide further insights.
  • Continued collaboration with experts and producers of related statistics to ensure a clear and comprehensive narrative is vital. In particular, there is increasing focus on, and interest in, the reproduction number – R. We understand that ONS is still considering the role of the data in its own estimation of R, and in contributing to others’ research and modelling. Given the high profile of R, ONS should ensure that the role of these data in estimating R is clear.
  • We welcome ONS’s engagement with colleagues from the devolved administrations about extending the survey UK-wide. Doing so will in turn add value to the separate understanding and decision-making in each of the UK’s nations. To ensure clarity of messaging, ONS will need to clearly outline expectations over when and how the statistics will expand into new areas.

Quality

  • Early data reveal a tremendous response to ONS’s invitations to participate in the survey. Given the scale of ambition for the eventual sample size – 130,000 households and 300,000 survey respondents – the commitment to continued funding of the study is welcome. We are encouraged by early signs of the response to the survey, and ONS’s commitment to ensure a good sample size. Maintaining good response rates is essential to presenting robust results both for the population as a whole, and breakdowns.
  • The clear presentation of statistical uncertainty is a helpful reminder to users that these data are based on a survey, and an essential element in ensuring the appropriate use of the data. Many of the concepts being measured are technical ­– ONS should consider how best to describe the statistics and technical terms for a range of users. For example, use of terms like ‘false positive’ and ‘false negative’ may not be clear to all. ONS will also need to clearly explain how accurate the tests being used are, the reliability of the methods for administering the swab tests and how much weight can be placed on the findings.
  • The initiation of a range of data quality checks, developed at speed across all the organisations involved, provides reassurance about quality. We welcome that these checks have continued to be refined as the survey has developed, and the commitment to further review them to provide additional reassurances around quality. Your proposals to publish more-detailed technical and quality information will provide further reassurance to users about quality. We would encourage ONS to share any lessons learnt among the various teams that are developing new statistics, using these to enhance the recent guidance on urgent quality assurance of data as appropriate.

Trustworthiness

  • The rapid reprioritisation of resources to enable people to work on this survey has required a considerable effort across ONS. Recognising the pressure staff at all levels may be under, and considering the ambitions for future iterations of the survey, balancing resourcing requirements with staff well-being will be vital.
  • I am also happy to confirm the exemption from the Code of Practice for Statistics’ standard publication time of 9.30am to permit a later release time for today’s statistics of 2pm. This will enable the statistics to be as timely as possible under the circumstances, and I welcome your commitment to release the statistics at 9.30am from next week.

We look forward to seeing these statistics develop as further statistics are published. Based on the findings of our review you can include a statement in your release such as “These statistics have been produced quickly in response to developing world events. The Office for Statistics Regulation, on behalf of the UK Statistics Authority, has reviewed them against several key aspects of the Code of Practice for Statistics and regards them as consistent with the Code’s pillars of Trustworthiness, Quality and Value.”

I am copying this to Iain Bell, Deputy National Statistician and Director General for Population and Public Policy; and Pete Benton, Director of Population and Public Policy Operations.

 

Yours sincerely

Ed Humpherson

Director General for Regulation

Ed Humpherson to Jonathan Athow: Production of ONS economic statistics during COVID-19

Dear Jonathan

I am writing to welcome your publication today of a blog and three supplementary articles on your contingency plans for producing key economic statistics during the challenges faced as a result of COVID-19. We support the open and proactive way that you have engaged with a range of stakeholders, your proactive and responsive thinking about the use of alternative data sources to minimise the effects of COVID-19 on existing data availability, and your publication of these articles in advance of the next round of key economic indicators. Taken together they represent exactly the kind of transparency that the Code of Practice for Statistics encourages as a foundation of trustworthy statistical production.

We also appreciate your ongoing engagement with us about the National Statistics designation of these statistics, and I am grateful for your openness in keeping these under review.

Yours sincerely

Ed Humpherson

Director General for Regulation

 

Rapid Review of Coronavirus, the UK economy and society, faster indicators

Dear Sir Ian

CORONAVIRUS, THE UK ECONOMY AND SOCIETY, FASTER INDICATORS

I am writing to endorse the new experimental faster indicators that ONS has published providing information about the impacts of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the UK Economy and Society. This is ground-breaking and remarkable work from everyone involved in producing these timely and valuable statistics under challenging circumstances.

My team has conducted a rapid regulatory review of these statistics, which are constructed from rapid response surveys, novel data sources and experimental methods, using the existing ‘Faster indicators of economic activity: UK’ release as a vehicle to publish those series developed for understanding the impacts of COVID-19. We have reviewed the extent to which they have been produced in accordance with the Code of Practice’s Trustworthiness, Quality and Value pillars, while taking account of the pressures ONS has faced to deliver timely statistics about a rapidly evolving national emergency. A summary of our findings, including recommendations, is set out below. More detailed feedback has been provided to the ONS statistics team responsible for producing the statistics.

Value

  • We welcome the rapid development of the new statistics published alongside some of the existing faster indicators in a re-purposed weekly statistical release. The appetite for faster information on UK economic activity has never been higher. Judging by the response of the media and commentators to the first release, the statistics will prove invaluable to decision-makers. Additionally, further public good is likely to be delivered from their use by a wide range of organisations and the general public in measuring some of the economic and societal impacts of the pandemic in close-to real-time.
  • While extensive user consultation about the questionnaire topics was not possible due to time constraints, ONS worked with policy and analytical leads in government departments to help identify priority topics for the of the new Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey (BICS). Within ONS, the statistics team has involved the ONS COVID-19 Outputs Group, ONS’s National Accounts Steering Group and the COVID Rapid Response team about their needs from the survey. Additionally ONS staff in publishing, digital and content were asked for guidance in meeting the perceived needs of the typical ‘inquiring citizen’ user for this analysis – defined as those who are often motivated to check out statistics because they want to find out more about a topical issue they have seen on the news, such as changes to indices like RPI or CPI. We welcome your commitment to continue to take account of wider user feedback about the published outputs as time progresses.
  • There is frequent dialogue between the ONS’s COVID-19 Outputs Group and the statistics team about introducing further faster indicators to the release over the coming weeks. These include the use of new sources of data on, for example, changes to households’ spending during the pandemic and the development of some geographic and industrial sector breakdowns of BICS survey findings. As the quantity of data in the release is likely to expand; statistical coherence is particularly important to avoid large amounts of information obscuring some of the key messages from the statistics. We encourage you to reflect on the evolving user need and available data to adapt the approach for how to present the various indicators, for example whether a dashboard would suit.
  • We welcome the very helpful metadata that ONS has published about the faster indicators since their inception, particularly about how much weight users should place on the statistics as lead indicators of other economic output indicators e.g. Gross Domestic Product (GDP). ONS have given some suitable warnings in this release about inappropriate use for example of the price indicators on High Dependency Products. It will be helpful to enhance these caveats for ONS to include references to articles that have previously explained the role of the faster indicators and how to interpret them in relation to the other short-term economic indicators.

Quality

  • As with many surveys there will be biases and sampling variability in the resulting statistics. We welcome that ONS has alerted users to the fact that results from the BICS survey reflect the characteristics of those who responded and not necessarily the wider business population. In due course it may be possible to expand and say more on the possible distortive effects of the non-response biases, and about the population of the businesses surveyed and the kinds of smaller businesses such as many self-employed businesses which are not surveyed.
  • Given the circumstances and the salience of the topics covered, there will be additional scrutiny of these statistics compared to the previous faster indicators of economic activity: UK release. We encourage ONS to ensure that the methodological information provided about the sample design, response and any potential biases for the BICS survey, choices of products included in the High Dependency Products listing are sufficiently accessible and detailed to support this enhanced degree of public scrutiny.
  • Due to the rapid development of the new indicators there is less reliance on statistical process control and a higher degree of expert judgement in reviewing and challenging the data. This is particularly the case for price data for High Dependency Products and the BICS data on business impacts. The quality of the shipping indicators has been checked against subsequent imports data and shows a reasonably high level of correlation. However, there is seasonal variation in the shipping data that cannot yet be adjusted for until a longer tie series of data has been established. ONS has set up a ‘hub and spoke’ model where experts in the different ONS statistics teams (the ‘spokes’) can advise those at those producing the statistics (the ‘hub’) about the quality of the data. As the data collection process matures ONS might seek to develop its quality assurance to incorporate some further checks on the data.

Trustworthiness

  • We commend the level of resources that have been reprioritised quickly to enable people to work on this. It has required a considerable effort from lots of different teams. ONS should ensure that resourcing requirements are reviewed regularly as the publication develops and ensure that staff wellbeing is maintained while delivering under pressure.

We look forward to seeing these statistics develop as further outputs are published. As set out in the guidance on changes to statistical outputs you can include a statement in your release such as “These statistics have been produced quickly in response to developing world events. The Office for Statistics Regulation, on behalf of the UK Statistics Authority, has reviewed them against several key aspects of the Code of Practice for Statistics and regards them as consistent with the Code’s pillars of Trustworthiness, Quality and Value.”

I am copying this to Jonathan Athow, Deputy National Statistician for Economic Statistics.

Your sincerely

Ed Humpherson

Director General for Regulation

Related links:

Covid-19: Changes to Statistics

Rapid review of ONS Opinions and Lifestyle Survey COVID-19 questions

Dear Sir Ian

ONS OPINIONS AND LIFESTYLE SURVEY COVID-19 QUESTIONS

I am writing to endorse the new official statistics ONS is about to publish which measure the public’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I would like congratulate everyone involved for their work to produce these timely and valuable statistics in challenging circumstances.

My team has conducted a rapid regulatory review of these statistics, which are based on a module of questions asked in the Opinions and Lifestyle (OPN) survey. We have reviewed the extent to which they have been produced in accordance with the Code of Practice’s Trustworthiness, Quality and Value pillars, while taking account of the pressures ONS has faced to deliver timely statistics about a rapidly evolving situation. A summary of our findings, and some recommendations, is set out below. More detailed feedback has been provided to your team.

Value

  • We welcome the rapid development of these statistics so they could support the UK Government’s pandemic management, demonstrating their high relevance to policy makers. Following their publication, their public good will be further demonstrated by helping a wider range of organisations and the general public to understand how citizens have adapted their behaviours in response to the pandemic.
  • While extensive user consultation about the questionnaire topics was not possible due to time constraints, ONS worked with senior policy and analytical leads across government to help identify priority topics for the survey. These included Departmental Directors of Analysis, Heads of Profession for Statistics, the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies, and the Civil Contingencies Secretariat. This is an on-going dialogue and has been extended to cover the published outputs. We welcome your commitment to seek wider user feedback about the published outputs and to develop them further as time progresses.
  • Early results were shared on a provisional basis to the Civil Contingencies Secretariat for operational planning. We judge this entirely appropriate in the context of a public health emergency. The statistics and data tables will now be published weekly from 9 April. We encourage you to work with the UK Data Service and others as appropriate to enable the microdata to be available via a suitable route as soon as reasonably possible.
  • Statistical coherence is particularly important during crisis situations to avoid large amounts of potentially conflicting information creating confusion and concern. ONS has attempted to minimise this by identifying other data being collected (on behalf of government and others) and by working with other statistics producers commissioning similar work. We welcome official statistics producers gathering data about the public’s response to the pandemic working together to identify ways to minimise duplication and support coherence.
  • It will be helpful for ONS to include references to other sources of similar statistics in published articles and, where necessary, to explain any major differences in estimates for similar topics.

Quality

  • These statistics have been developed at a much faster pace than usual for the OPN, but it is an established data collection tool with a strong quality-assurance infrastructure around it to support the questionnaire design, programming, data collection, data processing and analysis stages. This foundation provides significant reassurance around quality.
  • ONS’s experts in questionnaire design and testing are leading the survey development to overcome the fact that questions can’t be tested as extensively as would usually happen.
  • We welcome the wide range of quality assurance of the collected data. ONS might want to consider centralising responsibility for oversight of the whole quality assurance process across each delivery stage to mitigate more fully any risk of error and ensure that assurances around quality of the published data are as robust as possible.
  • Given the circumstances and the salience of the topics covered, there will be additional scrutiny of these statistics compared to a standard release based on this survey. We encourage ONS to ensure that the methodological information provided about the sample design, response and any potential biases is sufficiently accessible and detailed to support this enhanced degree of public scrutiny.

Trustworthiness

  • We welcome the quick establishment of clear lines of accountability and responsibility up to the National Statistician. This has helped with clear decision-making around the questionnaire contents and analytical outputs.
  • We also welcome that resources have been reprioritised quickly to enable people to work on this. It has required a considerable effort from lots of different teams. ONS should ensure that resourcing requirements are reviewed regularly as the survey waves progress and ensure that staff wellbeing is maintained while delivering under pressure.

We look forward to seeing these statistics develop as further waves are published. As set out in the guidance on changes to statistical outputs you can include a statement in your release such as “These statistics have been produced quickly in response to developing world events. The Office for Statistics Regulation, on behalf of the UK Statistics Authority, has reviewed them against several key aspects of the Code of Practice for Statistics and regards them as consistent with the Code’s pillars of Trustworthiness, Quality and Value.”

I am copying this to Iain Bell, Deputy National Statistician for Population and Public Policy.

Your sincerely

Ed Humpherson

Director General for Regulation

Devolved Labour Market Compliance Check

Dear all

STATISTICS ON THE LABOUR MARKET

I am writing to you following our recent review of the key Labour Market statistical reports for the devolved nations against the Code of Practice for Statistics. The statistics published by the Welsh Government, Scottish Government and Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) that we reviewed are:

The statistics have been considered as part of a wider review of labour market statistics, along with our assessment of UK employment and jobs statistics produced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). I am pleased to confirm that all three labour market reports should continue to be designated as National Statistics.

Labour market statistics are key economic indicators which are used by a wide range of users and are subject to high user interest. This review focussed mainly on the quality and public value of the data, statistics and supporting information. We recognise that the outputs we have reviewed differ between the three countries in terms of purpose, each team’s access to the underlying data and the time window available to produce them. These factors have been considered as part of our recommendations.

In reviewing the labour market reports, we found examples of clear supporting methodology information, effective sign-posting and presentation of uncertainty, which we detail separately for each country later in this letter. We have identified some common areas for improvement across the three producer teams, which also correspond to areas for improvements we’ve highlighted in our assessment report of ONS’s employment and jobs statistics. The recommendations in this letter build on those we have made to ONS and we encourage all four countries to continue to work together to ensure that labour market statistics across the UK continue to provide the necessary insights. In order to improve the quality and public value of these statistics, the teams should:

  • Consider how the statistics can be better presented to help improve users’ understanding of how the labour market is changing over time. We found some examples where the key labour market measures are defined but the relationship between these groups of people (for example, the unemployed and the economically inactive) could be more clearly explained. We encourage the three producer teams to also work with ONS to develop a way to understand the flows of people into, out of and within the labour market.
  • Build on existing collaboration between all the producer teams, including ONS, to enhance the coherence of labour market statistics. We found strong evidence of effective cross-producer collaboration through regular meetings and steering groups. However, discrepancies between the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and the Annual Population Survey (APS) data currently present issues with coherence of data sources. Greater collaboration could support a consistent approach in presenting data from the LFS or APS respectively and in turn, lead to a better read-across between the different countries’ statistics. This will require leadership and coordination from ONS and is highlighted in our assessment report of employment and jobs statistics (para 2.5). It could also prove an effective part of finding a solution to address the concerns raised by Scottish Government and Welsh Government about the future funding for APS which is explained in the ONS assessment report (para 1.9).

Welsh Government

  • Key Economic Statistics is well presented and the narrative provides relevant context to the statistics. The section on ‘Key quality information’ is appropriately detailed and provides useful information on data sources and methods. The bulletin includes links to supporting documentation and StatsWales data tables throughout. This could be further improved by signposting relevant sections from the ‘Key quality information’ within the main bulk of the bulletin to help aid understanding.
  • The statistics team has presented confidence intervals for the LFS estimates which provides some context for the level of uncertainty associated with the data. However, these are relatively inaccessible, and the language used in the narrative presents the latest figures as absolute, for example “The employment rate in Wales was x%”. This is particularly important when comparing data across the four countries, where estimated differences are not always statistically significant. Welsh Government should improve the way uncertainty is reflected in the narrative, following the lead of ONS as recommended in our assessment report, for example referring to the latest figures as estimates.
  • We were pleased to hear from the statistics team about its plans to potentially introduce a new bulletin covering protected characteristics in the labour market, which is an area of interest identified in its 2012 user consultation. We encourage Welsh Government to keep published statistical development plans up to date and to ensure users are aware of progress being made against these developments.
  • The statistics team told us that some of the main users of Key Economic Statistics go straight to the data tables to find the information they require and not the bulletin by default. We encourage Welsh Government to find out how its users engage with the various statistical outputs to ensure they remain relevant to users.

Scottish Government

  • The Labour Market Trends bulletin is easy to follow and we welcome the improvements that have been made to the presentation of chart headings and footnotes. The bulletin signposts to the new quarterly youth APS publication, which was previously included in the monthly LFS bulletin, as well as a number of ONS pages relating to the LFS. To improve clarity of the statistics, Scottish Government should look to expand on the methodology information within the bulletin itself.
  • The statistics team told us that the process for producing the monthly bulletin has largely been automated to ensure the statistics can be published at the same time as the ONS release. As a result, the narrative in the bulletin focuses on the latest figures and the change on the previous quarter or year. We would encourage the statistics team to consider how to bring out more insight from the statistics to improve their public value.
  • We welcome the work Scottish Government and ONS are doing to ensure uncertainty is properly reflected in the bulletin, as part of our recommendation in the assessment of employment and jobs statistics, to help users understand the precision of estimates. For example, the statistics team should avoid presenting figures as absolute in the headline
    infographic such as “x% of people aged 16 to 64 were in employment” and instead refer to the latest figures as estimates.
  • We were pleased to hear from the statistics team about its ongoing user engagement and its plans for developing alternative products for accessing the data to complement the ScotGov open data platform and to meet a range of users’ accessibility needs. The statistics team also told us that its economic statistics development plan is being updated to cover a wider range of economic statistics than in previous years. We would encourage Scottish Government to increase the visibility of its developments by publishing updates and outcomes of user engagement to highlight the good work they are doing in this area and to keep users informed of their plans and progress.

Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency

  • NISRA’s Northern Ireland Labour Market report is engaging and comprehensive. The narrative is proportionate to the statistics and the ‘Further information’ section of the report is thorough in addressing the strengths, limitations and comparability of the data.
  • The presentation of uncertainty in the bulletin and supporting materials is effective, for example including statistical significance and confidence intervals of estimates, and we are pleased to hear the report is being used as a case study for presenting uncertainty by the Government Statistical Service’s Good Practice Team. To improve this further, NISRA should ensure comparisons between Northern Ireland and the UK also take into the account the level of uncertainty for the estimates.
  • The team carried out a user consultation of labour market statistics in 2019 and has published its planned developments in response. We would encourage NISRA to seek feedback on its progress against the developments and continue to collate feedback on its various statistical outputs.

We appreciate each of the teams’ willingness to engage with us in this review as well as the wider assessment process with ONS. We wish to thank them for taking on board our recommendations. Our labour market and welfare domain team will continue to engage with your teams over the coming months to discuss progress.

I am copying this letter to Melanie Brown (Welsh Government), Gayle Mackie (Scottish Government) and Cathryn Blair (NISRA), the lead statisticians.

Yours sincerely
Mark Pont
Assessment Programme Lead

Related Links:

Assessment Report: UK employment and jobs statistics (March 2020)

Assessment of the UK employment and jobs statistics (March 2020)