Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Why Do Britons Have an Obsession with Recession?

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Why Do Britons Have an Obsession with Recession?

Article excerpt

Byline: Russell Lynch economic analysis

WE'RE still three weeks away from finding out if the UK is back in recession and already the throbbing anticipation among many of the City's economists is beginning to grate.

The way every piece of data is scoured -- in the manner of some Roman haruspex poring over the entrails of a sacrifical beast -- to divine the likelihood of the triple-dip, accords a significance well beyond the desserts of the Office for National Statistics' first GDP estimate, which involves more guesswork than hard facts.

Our lives won't suddenly change for the worse overnight if the figure has a minus sign in front of it, just as we all won't feel more prosperous if the UK managed to eke out a few meagre percentage points of growth in the first wintry months of this year.

The Chancellor will be braced for a political fire-storm if we dip again -- and confidence might suffer as the headlines blare out the end of the world -- but the big picture won't change.

The economy will still be around 3% smaller than five years ago, marking the slowest recovery in more than a century.

Besides, there are far scarier numbers for the Chancellor to worry about: YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT Even though ONS' figures frustratingly lag by a couple of months, the real story of early 2013 will prove to be renewed job-market weakness, which matters rather more to the man in the street than an abstract GDP number. Youth unemployment is on the rise again, up 48,000 to 993,000 in the three months to January this year, as the overall jobless total crept back past 2.5 million. The Chancellor understandably preferred to talk about record employment in the Budget but long-term unemployment scars young people more deeply, leading to lower earnings, more unemployment, and ill health.

THE DEBTS ARE STILL THERE For all the rhetoric about Britain's "dealing with its debts", household finances are still precarious. …

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