Dumb, dumber, and employment statistics

Just as with Obama in the US, the Cameron Coalition pretends the new figures are good news, and the MSM fails to critique them.

‘Why is employment growing so rapidly while output is falling? This is the hottest question in UK economics’ says the ever-more superficial London Financial Times this morning.

Predictably, the employment figures were hailed by the Government yesterday. It was part of an ongoing attempt by Camerlot to suggest that many of our economic statistics give an inaccurate picture of Britain’s  position and outlook. I’m inclined to agree: I think our position is far worse than the figures indicate.

More specifically, these figures are confusing for fairly straightforward reasons. First off, apples are being mentioned in the same paragraph as pears, and then compared. This really won’t do: we can’t simply say 236,000 people found new jobs and thus somehow lots of firms are taking on new jobs. What’s happening here is that vacancies (funny how no government ever mentions vacancies) are being filled by those who were previously melded to the sofa.

This is not wild hypothesis: fully 181,000 of the new employed came from that group referred to as the economically inactive – ie, disabled, long-term ill, or bone idle. It doesn’t include many of the retired (being 16-64 by age) but it is 23% of the population – almost a quarter.

It’s no coincidence that this has happened shortly after yet more announcements were forthcoming from the Coalition about cuts in benefit and further investigations of welfare fraud. The idle minority have spotted that the party’s over, and thus taken jobs they would previously have turned down. (Precisely the same thing happened when Iain Duncan-Smith announced his first round of welfare reforms eighteen months ago.)

What’s really required from such statistics is an analysis of what kind of employment has been taken up and how much people are being paid for it. For example, when inflation is fully taken into account, the general picture is that employment is reasonably steady, but real wages are falling and more and more of the workers are part-time.

“People are pricing themselves into work through weakness in pay and the shift to less secure and less well-paid forms of work,” says Michael Saunders, an economist at Citi. Spot-on, chum. You see, the fun thing about this site is I will say some people are idle, and then – in the very next paragraph – suggest that some employers are arseholes. It’s called being Unaligned – but only because Western politics can’t seem to get beyond Left and Right.

The plain truth is that neocon capitalism is working slowly but surely to reduce Western wage costs, while hoping that those pauperised folks will nevertheless be convinced back into the consumption cycle once the dust settles on the debt monetisation…after which credit can be relaxed again, and off we’ll go into another round of madness. While the hard and equally confused Old Left hopes to exploit internally flawed neocon ideas and create violence…after which Socialism can be tried again, and off we’ll go into another round of jobs for the boys.

As the old 1950s Soviet gag had it, “Under capitalism, man exploits man; whereas under Socialism, it’s the other way round”.

We must all remain wary of the Left/Right con. It has nothing to teach us, but everything to gain for its elites. Instead, we must look for new models, more courage, a return to positive creative risk, and better analysis of statistics.