Living standards - down or up?
Living standards are still lower than they were when the economic crisis began. No-one disputes that.
With wages growing slower than the rate of inflation there has been a long-term squeeze on household incomes.
No-one disputes that either. The Institute for Fiscal Studies' last set of figures suggested a squeeze in living standards of 3% a year.
Yet the Chancellor is now quoting a different set of figures - from the Office for National Statistics - suggesting that disposable incomes are going up again. In tomorrow's Times George Osborne writes:
"Consider some other official statistics released in recent weeks: inequality is at its lowest for 25 years and disposable incomes grew by 1.4 per cent above inflation last year despite the squeeze, the fastest for three years".
What explains the difference in these figures? After a series of calls - to the IFS, the ONS, the Treasury and the Labour Party, I confess that I simply cannot get to the bottom of this. Grateful if you can!
PS All I would note is that the ONS figures fall again in the first quarter of 2013.