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Why do statistics matter?

19 October 2016 (updated on 20 October 2021)

We safeguard the quality of statistics and provide trustworthy facts for the public debate

Silke Stapel Weber, Director General Statistics

Statistics – facts or pieces of information generated from a set of numerical data – are crucial for the European Central Bank (ECB). Much of our work, be it related to our core monetary policy function, financial stability or banking supervision, depends on high-quality statistics – a necessity for making informed decisions that affect the daily lives of the people living in the countries that use the euro.

The analysis of economic, monetary and financial developments prepared for each monetary policy meeting is a clear example of why statistics matter for the ECB and the economy. These statistics serve as a key input for the Governing Council’s monetary policy decisions, which in turn influence the interest rates people and businesses pay. Indirectly, statistics affect the lives of many.

The importance of high-quality and independent statistics

Sound decisions require high-quality statistics. So we adhere to strict standards to ensure that ECB statistics are accurate, consistent, timely, and produced in line with international standards without any outside interference. The independence of official statistics is fundamental for safeguarding their quality. It is enshrined in European legislation to avoid political influence and conflicts of interest that could affect the provision of data. This ensures people can trust such data when it is used as a basis for policies affecting their daily lives.

The importance of detailed data

The global financial crisis highlighted the necessity of collecting relevant and more granular data. As a result, the scope of central bank statistics is moving beyond aggregates – which invariably involve averages – to also cover micro (more detailed) data, in order to identify warning signs in the financial system at an early stage, for example at the level of individual loans, transactions and banks.

Granular data can lead to a better understanding of how monetary policy is transmitted to different corners of the economy. It can help improve the design of future policy measures and enable a more timely policy response.

The ECB’s AnaCredit project, which involves a new dataset with detailed information on individual bank loans in the euro area, is a noteworthy example of how we use granular data.

The challenges of collecting detailed data

Collecting detailed statistical information can be quite challenging, especially as regards choosing methodologies and calculation methods that ensure comparability across countries.

A further challenge is obtaining information from entities that operate outside the banking system and that may have an impact on the financial system, and therefore also on monetary policy. Two examples are hedge funds – investment partnerships that pool the money of a limited number of individual/institutional investors – and shadow banks – entities that provide services similar to banks but without explicit access to central bank liquidity and without the regulatory oversight required in the case of regular banks.

Furthermore, the confidentiality of individual data must always be ensured, especially in the case of supervisory data used in activities conducted jointly with external parties.

Data harmonisation is a key issue

Data harmonisation is also critical as it allows for meaningful results and reliable comparisons. For example, we can be confident about the accuracy of the inflation data used because they are derived from national data based on a common set of definitions and classifications, in other words the same sort of shopping basket of goods and services.

Harmonised and standardised statistics make it easier for policymakers to design timely and targeted policy responses to economic developments in the euro area.

At the same time, statistics are made publicly available for banks, companies, households and other reporting agents to use in their own data analysis and benchmarking.

How to find ECB statistics

Naturally, the euro area is the main focus of the statistics collected, developed and prepared by the ECB. We also share key data.

You can obtain a wide range of statistics from either the Euro area statistics website – which presents statistics visually, interactively and in formats that are easy to embed in digital media – or our comprehensive Statistical Data Warehouse.

The Statistical Data Warehouse includes:

  • ECB/Eurosystem policy and exchange rates
  • money, credit, banking and financial market statistics
  • balance of payments and other external statistics
  • macroeconomic and sectoral statistics
  • payment statistics
  • supervisory and prudential statistics
  • data related to inflation, other prices, costs, output and labour markets

The European System of Central Banks is proud to be one of two European sources of high-quality European statistics. This is possible thanks to the close cooperation between the ECB and the national central banks, as well as with EU institutions and national and international statistical offices, including the EU statistical office Eurostat.

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Statistics are essential for making informed decisions. We provide a wide range of official statistics on the health of the economy.