The development of the coronavirus vaccine provides an answer to our productivity puzzle

In a couple of years, when activity is back to normal, will we have learnt so many new ways of doing things that all those worries about technology failing to boost productivity disappear, asks Hamish McRae

Tuesday 11 August 2020 19:49
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The Oxford team reckon they could clip a month or so off the timescale for future vaccines, from what they have learnt
The Oxford team reckon they could clip a month or so off the timescale for future vaccines, from what they have learnt

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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