Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Today, I'd like to put out a plea for integrity and understanding in the use of data.
Now, I'm not going to be specific, because this isn't about pointing fingers. It's just an example of how data can be used and abused. Recently, I read an article by an official promoting a particular industry. This individual gave a level of employment for that particular industry and indicated that just last year the industry had created a large number of new jobs.
Since I'm a data geek and track employment data, I knew that wasn't true. BUT, in a way it was. If you looked at ONE anomalous month in 2010, employment in that particular industry did reach the reported level (and subsequently dropped). If you looked at that ONE particular month, indeed, employment was up substantially from the same month in 2009. (Incidentally, this was probably due to some unusual seasonality.)
However, the annual numbers for 2010 showed a much different picture--on average, employment levels were much lower and the industry actually lost jobs. Did the aforementioned official intend to deceive? Probably not. But did we understand the true picture?
In a world where economic information is so important, understanding and using data appropriately is priceless.
Labels: Economist--Lecia Langston