It is a little like that moment when you are on the train and spot someone you are sure you know sitting diagonally across from your seat facing you, two rows on. Is it that bloke who left Take That, to leave just one of them remaining? Is it Prince Edward? That chappie from Al Qaeda who looks great in a headscarf? Turns out it is your uncle Dennis.
This is the feeling we had this morning in the NTI newsroom (Wednesday 6 January). We know we should have heard of the snappily-named Composite Purchasing Managers' Index (CPMI) and get that it is a key economic indicator of activity in the 'powerhouse' services and manufacturing sectors, but has it gone completely bonkers? If there is one sector that needs a gentle head massage and a family-sized bar of chocolate it is the UK services industry. You have to go back to the trenches of northern France in 1918 to witness such a haggard look of hopelessness as has been worn on the faces of those working in that sector for the last ten months.
But no, according to the CPMI services and manufacturing moved into 'growth territory' last month with a reading of 50.4 (anything over 50 = three cherries and £5 won on a scratch card). Apparently, December's numbers demonstrate employers' hiring intentions have risen to their highest level since February of 2020, when we had never heard of Wuhan. Equally, the combined employment index reading of 47.2 in December was the best since the pandemic took our vocabulary hostage. And this at a time no-one was working and we were all not going to the movies to enjoy 'Covid 2 - This Time It's more Virulent'.
Numbers don't lie? Try telling that to Neil's friend Lynn who, when at University on something called 'a grant', boys and girls, received her whole annual sustenance grant three times over into her bank account. She just watched at the cashpoint machine as the number in her account first doubled and then trebled for no reason. Then she shopped, ate and drank it all in a week, before her Local Authority politely wrote to her and asked for it back. Do you know what she told us when we asked her how she could spend money that clearly wasn't hers?
"Numbers don't lie."
Samuel Tombs, a UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, who doesn't at all get the joke of his own name, said that separate real time data suggested that UK GDP declined only by 0.1 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2020. Do you know what we say to that, Samuel?
Do you know what we follow that up with?
However, the CPMI wasn't finished. It reported that expectations for the next 12 months among services companies, which includes retailers and the hospitality sector, were the most optimistic in six years. The sector then watched the BBC News at Six and went out and killed itself.