40,000 job losses? Beware the stat
In January this year Royal Mail began a round of cost-cutting that unions feared would trigger 40,000 job losses. In March there were fears that 40,000 manufacturing jobs could go to France if Airbus won a highly controversial contract for the DOD. In the same month economist Brian Bethune suggested as many as 40,000 jobs could be cut from U.S. payrolls. In April analysts at JPMorgan said job losses in London’s City financial district could be around 40,000 (Double the figure first feared). In June it was reported that Deutsche Bahn, Germany's state-owned rail operator, would shed up to 40,000 workers in an effort to boost efficiency. In July it was announced that 40,000 jobs in the private sector had been lost in Ohio since 2000. And early this month the New York Governer said Wall Street might lay off 40,000 workers in a worst-case scenario following.
If you scan google now you will find that 40,000 customers remain without power after Hurricane Ike and up to 40,000 litres of sewage has poured into Whangarei Harbour (New Zealand) after a sewage pump failure. These stats could be true, however we know they are only estimations.
As Dan Gardner suggests, psychologists have demonstrated time and again that it is almost impossible to keep bogus statistics from worming their way into our brains and influencing our judgement. It may turnout that the senior banker was right in his estimation. But it's very likely that the number 40,000 was already etched into his brain and in the turmoil of city life he plucked it out without even thinking.