Government Statistician rejects Robertson smear on public servants

The Government Statistician has said:

Like my predecessors I am fiercely protective of the statutory independence of the role of the Government Statistician and strongly refute any assertions made by that there has been political interference in the production of official statistics.

This independence means that I maintain the right to make changes necessary to ensure the relevance and quality of our official statistics. Changes to the Household Labour Force Survey have been made to ensure that we produce the best possible measure of the current state of the labour market and to maintain consistency with international best practice.

Far from ignoring technological change during the past 30 years, such as the advent of the internet, we are incorporating these changes so as to be technology neutral.

Within the survey questions, to be regarded as actively looking for a job you must do more than simply look at job advertisements, whether it is online or in a newspaper.

It is not uncommon for revisions to be made to official statistics as a result of more accurate information becoming available or changes to international standards and frameworks.

This was in response to Robertson’s clumsy smear:

National appears to be actively massaging official unemployment statistics by changing the measure for joblessness to exclude those looking online, says Labour’s Employment spokesperson Grant Robertson.

“These changes are typical of a Government that actively manipulates official data to suit its own ends. I have no doubt National ministers will embrace the massaged figures and continue not to worry about the real people who are out of work.

“Despite the many flaws in the its biggest strength is that is has been a consistent measure for almost 30 years. National’s recent changes have completely undermined that. It is arrogance of the highest order to simply write thousands of jobless New Zealanders off the books,” says Grant Robertson.

Robertson is not stupid. He knows the Government Statistician has independence and no Minister can tell her to change an official definition. He just figured a cheap shot at the Government was worth the implicit smearing of the neutral officials at who make these decisions. Remember this when Robertson talks of protecting the public service – it needs protecting from him.

Sums it up nicely. A desperate move.

The irony is that I expect the HLFS to show increased unemployment tomorrow because the last update had a big drop, which may partially be sampling error, so it could well reverse.

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