The Last Word; Economists: People Who Combine Down-to-Earth Facts and Figures with Crystal-Ball Gazing

Article excerpt

The business

Economists don't enjoy the highest profile in the world. From time to time they pop up on Newsnight to offer Jeremy Paxman a soundbite or two, but their true nature is to work in the background, providing the information that companies, governments and countries rely upon to make reasoned decisions about the future.

The people

Economists apply economic theory to resolve complex issues facing their employer, who could be the Government, an investment bank, a multinational company, a university or an aid agency. The job is a mix of analysing the past and forecasting the future, but it's far from being guesswork. Their advice is based on considerable research, data crunching and knowledge of the market. And they need the skill to explain complicated findings to people with a slender grasp of economics. Statistically, they're likely to be men but there are more women entering the profession.

The employers

The largest recruiter in the UK is the Government Economic Service (GES) which employs more than 500 economists in 30 departments and agencies. The work involves analysing national trends, developing forecasting models and evaluating economic policy. In spending departments, economists apply economic principles and techniques to industrial, social and institutional issues, looking at the economic implications of government policy in important areas like transport, health, employment and social services.

Smaller numbers of economists are recruited by investment banks and financial services firms where they work in market intelligence departments. There are also opportunities within the institutions of the European Union, and many UK economists work in Brussels. …