Dreadful employment figures for the UK – down 220,000 – but apparently not as dreadful as expected? Unemployment still steady at only 3.9 per cent?
Actually the latest labour market numbers have an easy explanation but raise a really puzzling – and important – question about the future.
The explanation is simply that this is rear-view mirror stuff. Labour market data have always been lagging indicators, telling us what was happening a few weeks ago rather than what is happening now. But in a crisis such as this one, they are particularly misleading because of the government job support schemes. Unemployment will surge in the autumn and through the winter. We just don’t know by how much.
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