Statistics Explained

Short-term business statistics - quality and scope

This article presents various quality aspects of European Union (EU) short-term statistics (STS): their timeliness, scope, accuracy, reliability and various other quality indicators.

It is part of a set of background articles treating various methodological aspects of short-term business statistics.

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Timeliness and punctuality

Table 1: Timeliness of short-term business statistics (days between end of reference period and data dissemination of European results)

For short-term statistics the early availability of data is of central importance. For four STS indicators results are published in a monthly news release between 35 and 49 days after the end of the reference period.

The European regulation on short-term statistics (also see the article on the legal base) already included deadlines for the delivery of national data to Eurostat. With the amending Regulation 1158/2005 these deadlines have been considerably shortened for most indicators (see Table 1, 3rd column). Only few days are needed for the calculation and dissemination of European results, e.g. aggregates for EU-28 or the euro area (see Table 1, last column). Users are informed well in advance about the publication dates of the news releases by the release calendar on the Eurostat website. In 2013, all dates announced in the calendar were met.

Scope and compliance

The legal base for short-term business statistics (STS) is Regulation 1165/98 and subsequent modifying acts. Currently STS covers a total of 38 different indicators, including production, turnover, prices and employment measures for four different areas of the economy (industry, construction, retail trade, services).

Member States' compliance with the short-term statistics Regulation in terms of reliability, timeliness, coherence and comparability is monitored by Eurostat every six months and shows a high level of compliance and constant improvement. Every three years the general quality of short-term business statistics is assessed and the results are reported to the European Parliament and the Council.

Coherence and comparability

Regulation (EC) No 1165/98 and related acts have introduced a set of common STS definitions which are applied by all Member States. The methodological framework established by the Regulation is continuously improved by mutual consultations and special thematically focused task forces. Methodologies do not have to be identical in Member States. In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity Member States are free to decide on the most efficient and effective ways of collecting and processing data in order to take into account national differences, e.g. in size, economic structure and availability of administrative data. Eurostat also works together with other international organisations, especially the OECD, in order to increase the comparability of data and methods beyond the European Union.


Table 2: Size of revisions of STS indicators (difference between growth rates at first and second publication)

First results of short-term indicators are partly based on estimated and incomplete data. For this reason results change between first, second and even subsequent publications.

Over time survey results become more complete because missing or late respondents have been added. Other reasons why data are revised are seasonal adjustment, benchmarking, new and/or improved data sources, and corrections of errors or methodological changes. Nevertheless, the size of revisions of short term indicators is generally rather limited, especially at the aggregate EU level and for the euro area. Table 2 presents for the four short-term indicators published monthly in special news releases the changes between the first and the second publication of monthly growth rates (during the years 2011 - 2013).

Acessibility and availability of metadata

All short-term statistics results are freely accessible on the Eurostat website in the the special section dedicated to short-term statistics. Comprehensive, targeted and detailed explanations of methodological issues (metadata) are also made available in special STS publications (e.g. Statistics in focus) and directly on the Eurostat website. The database STS sources provides detailed discussions of statistical processes, legal questions, confidentiality rules, data quality and description of national data collection methods. For a number of key indicators additional detailed methodological explanations are also available (PEEIs in focus)

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