Lies, dammed lies and statistics. The REC’s latest report doubles down on dodgy data

One thing that is pretty clear from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation’s latest recruitment industry report ( is that their obsession with big numbers is something they’re not going to give up easily.

Last year we commented that their focus on industry turnover of £38 billion was missing the point of what the industry is all about (see

This year they have doubled down, or perhaps more accurately, doubled up, and introduced us to the concept of Gross Value Added. This, amazingly, suggests recruiters ‘support £86 billion in GVA across the economy’ which is larger than the accounting and legal industries combined.

To understand how c100,000 recruiters can generate more GVA than over 500,000 accountants and solicitors involves so many assumptions and estimates about ‘induced and indirect GVA’ that it makes the key points of the report borderline meaningless. Even if it might be statistically valid. Who can fail to be impressed by an approach where:

Outliers are removed from the industry data set using the IQR method for the data responses greater than zero. So that the data conforms more closely to a gaussian model, the data is transformed using the log before the IQR method is used.’

I hope you’re paying attention at the back!

But yet again, it’s a shame because once past the headlines, the report actually touches on some key areas where staffing firms have an important part to play in re-booting the economy, helping get people back to work quickly and enabling those entering the workforce for the first time to find the right position.

For many recruitment businesses, the pandemic has presented an existential threat but also an opportunity to genuinely transform to meet the needs of clients and candidates far better.

From our own work, we see the best in the industry rising to this challenge by fundamentally re-thinking their businesses. They are developing more digitally enabled methodologies, driving ever deeper levels of specialism, and, crucially, implementing metrics that much more clearly align with their clients’ needs.

Simply put, the recruitment industry is a critical component of the UK economy, but it’s not size that matters but agility. Over-hyping a big number with dodgy statistics doesn’t help.

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