Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Dogs, Divorces and Cost of Fun Point to Recovery Signs

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Dogs, Divorces and Cost of Fun Point to Recovery Signs

Article excerpt

Byline: economic analysis Russell Lynch

LOOMING next week are the first estimates of the UK's growth for the opening quarter of 2014 and with them the usual political bunfight over statistics unlikely to last the year before being revised up or down.

The magic numbers are still five days away but will inevitably be used by the Chancellor to justify the "long-term economic plan" while Labour plays its "cost of living crisis" record again. A tedious arsenal of soundbites is primed and ready to launch.

Quarterly growth rates be it 0.7%, 0.8% or even higher in the first quarter excite economists, but they mean little to most people, who tend to focus more on unemployment or inflation. A look at slightly more quirky indicators from outside the dry world of the Office for National Statistics offers other signs of a recovery gathering pace.

Most, admittedly, are proxies in some ways for consumer spending, but that's still not to be sniffed at as it accounts for two-thirds of the economy.

THE COST OF FUN IS RISING Consultancy has been collecting data on the cost of common recreational activities from buying DVDs to golf clubs and iPads, and even days out at theme parks, since 2011. The UK's "cost of fun" rose 4.7% in the year to April the steepest increase among developed economies excluding Japan, which has been making huge efforts to reflate its economy. The cost of fun index was in negative territory for the first two years of its existence but has climbed steadily to its current peak: that suggests previously nervous purveyors of leisure activities that can be chopped from budgets in leaner times are more confident over pushing through price rises.

WE'RE HANGING ON TO FIDO Man's best friend got a bum deal during the recession as the number of stray dogs handled by local authorities across the country jumped from 97,000 in 2008 to a peak of 126,000 in 2011. …

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