Friday, January 05, 2007

Statistics Section of The Economist Changed

I see that The Economist have changed their statistics sections in their latest issue in several ways, mostly positive. First, it has been made public content, instead of being restricted to subscribers of The Economist as in the past. Secondly, they've merged the "emerging markets" section with the main section so that all countries are now shown in a single table. And thirdly, as a result of the second point, there is now more extensive statistics about emerging economies.

The only negative change that I can see is that they seem to have taken away the trade weighted index of currencies of developed countries.

Anyway, We can see that among the countries displayed, Iceland have the lowest official unemployment at just 1,0% (!), whereas South Africa have the highest at 25,6%. Official unemployment rates are often manipulated by governments, both in certain welfare states and in third world countries, but the difference between Iceland and South Africa is probably largely real.

Interestingly, Iceland also has the lowest GDP growth rate at just 0,8%, whereas Latvia have the highest at 11,8%. This illustrates that unemployment is a lagging business cycle indicator. Iceland have an excellent microeconomic structure, one of the best in the world, but its macroeconomics are so messed up that the economy have started to slump.

It's commodity price index also refutes the widespread impression of a commodity price collapse. Yes, the oil price is falling and recently the price of copper and a few other metals have also gone through a correction after the dramatic increase of the last few years. But the all-items index is nearly unchanged (having fallen just 0,7%) for the latest month, and is still up a full 27,1% for the latest year. The fall in metal prices during the latest month have thus been mostly compensated by rising prices of agricultural commodities (both food and non-food). And despite the 6,2% decline of the sub-index for metals during the latest month, it is still up 48,6% for the latest year.


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