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Friday, 25 May 2012

A Day In The Life Of Dr Sloan

Dr Brian Sloan, Chief Economist at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

With a seemingly endless and confusing list of contradictory economic indicators in the media every day, I was a little apprehensive writing my first blog about the current economic situation. So I decided I’m not going to!

I was at an event yesterday when someone introduced themselves and said: “So, Chief Economist at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, what exactly do you do?” Suddenly I’m having flashbacks to all those difficult interview questions and breaking into a cold sweat. There is no typical day, honestly. Just about anything can come up, but that answer often seems like a cop out.

On the train in the morning I got a call as I’m catching up with the latest business news. It was BBC Radio Manchester asking if I’d heard about the new jobs being created by the Co-Op in Manchester and did I have a view? We even agreed that I would get off the train at Salford Crescent so they could do the interview while I stood in a quiet spot on the campus of Salford University. Sorted, the interview goes well and to close the interview, the presenter asks: “Are you in the garden? I believe that sounds like a male blackbird calling in the background.” We’re still live on air, bizarre.

The morning in the office was spent pouring over the grim news that GDP for quarter 1 has been revised down to -0.3%, but this still seems at odds with the Chamber’s Quarterly Economic Survey, a point made by Robert Chote, Chairman of the Office of Budget Responsibility, speaking at a lunchtime event yesterday organised by ProManchester. I was a guest of Chief Executive John Ashcroft at the event and had the opportunity to speak to other leading figures from across the region that share the Chamber’s view and much doubt is being cast on the Office of National Statistics’ figures.

The afternoon was somewhat routine, except for the unusual ability to have a staff catch-up outdoors in the sunshine, and a pensions meeting where I had a few questions of my own to ask. Last night I headed off to Manchester Business School for the last in their series of Vital Topics lectures as guest of the Dean, Professor Michael Luger. I have missed some of the great speakers this series so I was looking forward to the speaker Simon Bowen of Urenco.

Yesterday was a day for tough questions and next time I will address the tough questions of where we see the region’s economy and prospects for business and job creation. There is a lot to be upbeat about. Yes these are challenging times, but look at some of the positives. Businesses in the region are more confident, looking to invest and are creating jobs. On that final point the evidence is there in the recent labour market statistics for the North West, as more people are now in work across the region. But this complex set of numbers isn’t easily digestible and the headlines focused on the negatives. So for now, as my Dad’s Army office mug says - “Don’t Panic!”

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