Monday 27 February 2017

Economists will just have to give up crunching numbers

Dan O'Brien

Dan O'Brien

Shoppers on Grafton Street in Dublin. (Stock photo)
Shoppers on Grafton Street in Dublin. (Stock photo)

'Output and employment'. 'Employment and output'. 'Output and employment'. This is the mantra of economists when talking about how an economy is performing. Employment is measured by counting the numbers at work. If that seems easy, it's not. In modern, fast-paced economies with constantly churning labour markets, even getting those simple-sounding sums right is a challenge for number-crunchers.

Getting the sums right on how much all of the people working in an economy produce is a challenge of an entirely different order. As economies everywhere become more complex, it is getting harder to measure output. It has become utterly impossible in Ireland.

That was demonstrated by Tuesday's jaw-dropping figures for the economy's GDP, the most commonly used measure of output internationally.

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