Tables are often used to display data clearly, such as on a food label, or when a lot of data needs to be displayed in a concise form, such as on a bus or train timetable.
To read data from a table you need to ensure that you look at all the available information.
Using the table below taken from an Irish Tourism Employment Survey will help to consider this.
Table 8 Employment in the Irish tourist industry (numbers employed by sector)
|Sector/year||2009||2010||% ± (2009–2010)|
|Hotels||52 308||46 373||–11|
|Bed and breakfasts||n/a||3937||–|
|Restaurants||41 049||38 657||–6|
|Non-licensed restaurants||16 134||14 336||–11|
|Licensed premises||59 983||51 693||–4|
|Tourism services and attractions||31 449||18 702||n/a*|
There is a lot of information here, so how can you start to understand it?
The first thing to do is to look at the title. This should explain clearly what the table contains. This table contains data on the number of people employed in the Irish tourist industry, divided into sectors. The next step is to examine the column and row headings. What information is being given here? Raw numbers, or percentages? What units are being used? Do you understand all abbreviations used and how the table is constructed?
The column headings are the years 2009 and 2010, that seems straightforward but the final column may be confusing. This tells us the percentage change between 2009 and 2010, given as either a positive or a negative number. Between 2009 and 2010, for instance, the number of people employed in hotels in Ireland fell by 11 per cent.
The rows give the types of tourist facilities, such as hotels and restaurants, with the total for all types given in the bottom row.
Finally, you can look at the main body of the table to find the information you need. For example, to find the number of people employed in restaurants in 2009, move along the row labelled ‘Restaurants’, and down the column labelled ‘2009’. Where this row and column meet, the value is 41 049. So in 2009, 41 049 people were employed in restaurants.