Sex, drugs and charity – the changes to how UK GDP is measured revealed

Catherine Neilan
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The UK's vice trades - and its virtuous ones - have bumped the country's economic data up (Source: AFP)
Vice sectors such as the sex and drugs trades – alongside those firmly rooted in virtue – have given the UK's economy something of a halo, according to the Office for National Statistics' reworking of GDP data.
The once-in-a-generation changes are being drip fed out, with the first - revised real and nominal GDP for 2010 to 2012, as well as a historical series that dates back to 1997 - out this morning.
The revisions include the contributions of sectors not previously included, such as the sex and drugs trades and the charitable sector.
So was Gordon Brown right all along? An unpopular sentiment perhaps, but one arguably borne out by the data.
ONS is now saying that the scale of the downturn during two of his nearly three years as Prime Minister was not as bad as previously thought – output has been revised upwards by 2.6 per cent for the point at which the recession started in 2008 until 2012.
However, the length of the downturn remains unrevised, and it was still the deepest since ONS records began in 1948. The recovery has also been the slowest.
Chancellor George Osborne can also take comfort in the fact that during his tenure, the economy looks rosier, with the growth rate between 2010 and 2012 increasing by more than one per cent.
The figures, which have been released a day before the Bank of England meets to discuss interest rates again, could add weight to the dissenting voices at the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), as could the Markit PMI figures out this week.
But looking over a longer time period, the changes have had a limited impact.
ONS chief economist Joe Grice said:
Despite the wide ranging improvements underpinning the new estimates, the broad picture of the economy has not changed much. Although the downturn was less deep than previously estimated and subsequent growth stronger, it remains the case that the UK experienced the deepest recession since ONS records began in 1948 and the subsequent recovery has been unusually slow.
Over the period 1998-2012, the overall size of revisions remains small at an average of 0.1 percentage points per year.

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