Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Unemployment Falls Again

Unemployment fell again according to figures out from the Office of National Statistics, and inactivity rates are also falling. The net result is that 74.9% of people of working age are now in work, a total of 29.51 million people, up 152,000 over the quarter and up 456,000 over the year.

The number of outstanding vacancies is now 687,600 which is the highest since 2001. This accords with anecdotal evidence - I know several people desperately trying to recruit IT staff and struggling to find people who will respond to adverts let alone turn up to interviews. It explains why the BoE has been cautious and has only cut interest rates by a total of 0.75% from the peak of 5.75%, unlike the US Fed which has cut by 3% to take interest rates from 5.25% to 2.25%.

But you wouldn't have known unemployment had fallen if you had logged onto the Times website this morning. Their main headline screamed Unemployment looms large as crunch bites deep - anyone glancing at it would have shivered and assumed that unemployment had just risen. But their whole article was instead based on an predictive "estimate" put out by JP Morgan - you know those people whose predictive abilities are so notable that they loaded up with sub-prime which resulted in them announcing a 34% writedown in Q4/07 income, followed by an announcement today that their 2008 first quarter profits had dropped by 50%. When the ONS released their figures, the Times removed the article from the front page and published the correct employment figures on the business pages - but couldn't resist spinning with the headline that the rise in employment was "masking" the "crunch".

It's hard not to conclude that the Times is doing it's darndest to frighten the public into staying away from the shops, hiding under the bed and stuffing their money under the mattress - all the better to make people doubt the Labour government and vote Tory. It will be interesting to see how far they take this. You can scare-monger to a certain extent, but when you start to do it persistently and in direct contradiction to the facts you get a reputation rather like the Daily Express when they run one of their interminable "Diana was killed by Prince Phillip" stories.


Anonymous said...

Trouble is, doom and gloom seems to sell papers. Humans seem to have a need to be told dismal, mildly scary stories; before electric light they were mostly about ghosts, ghouls and the proverbial things that go bump in the night, now that we all lead such comfortable lives they're about the bad times just around the corner.

There is a possible evolutionary explanation for mankind’s mild pessimism. Our ancestors were the survivors; those too optimistically bold went out and got eaten; those too pessimistic stayed in and starved. We, poor snivelers, are the result...

snowflake5 said...

Hi Hughes,

It's certainly received wisdom that doom and gloom sells newspapers - but ever since newspapers have become more angry and strident their readership has been falling. There is only so much doom the human spirit can take - and when it varies so strongly with reality, people simply dump the news and read fun stuff about celebs :-)