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The European Central Bank implemented a negative interest rate policy yesterday. Whilst we have become very accustomed to a low base rate in the UK, the ECB policy seems extraordinary.
The policy has come about due to a continued concern over the economic situation in the Eurozone. Growth remains weak, unemployment is high and inflation sits below the target of 2% in many of the 18 countries. The ECB is unlikely to follow the UK (and others) strategy of quantitative easing and so is left with fewer choices.
By setting a negative interest rate, the ECB wants to discourage banks from keeping larger reserves and promote a greater level of lending (and thus stimulate economic growth).
If you want to download a short Powerpoint slideshow that explains the policy and its possible consequences then click on this link.
High rates of long term youth unemployment will have hugely significant economic and social costs - this short news report from Al Jazeerah news looks at the issue of youth unemployment in Portugalread more...»
If you are like me, teaching unemployment starts with explanation of its causes and then moves on to its impact (before discussing possible solutions). I've always found the 'impact' aspect relatively straight-forward; it would seem students find the concept of loss of output and its consequences fairly logical. Discussing the long-term effects can be more difficult as young adults in full-time education may not be wholly empathetic towards the outcomes of job loss.
An interesting report came out from the Nuffield Trust recently (a copy is available from this link) about the increase in the prescription of antidepressants. The increase from 15 million items prescribed in 1995 to 40 million items in 2012 is quite large but the report shows that the biggest jump has come during the economic downturn since 2008. The report hypothesizes on a number of causes of this increase but does suggest a link between unemployment and the increase in prescription of antidepressants. Perhaps it isn't a quantum leap to illustrate that there is a relationship between unemployment and depression but evidence of this nature may be valuable when making a point about the impact of unemployment (and its cost to society as a whole) in the class or as part of an exam answer.
Unemployment benefits can address the failures of credit markets by enabling unemployed people to spend more time searching for a new job – even in countries like Norway, which have an equitable wealth distribution and a generous welfare state. That is the central conclusion of research by Christoph Basten, Andreas Fagereng and Kjetil Telle, published in the May 2014 issue of the Economic Journal.read more...»
Teachers and students of the Phillips Curve will be delighted to access this updated classroom ready presentation on the Phillips Curve from Ed Dolan, Professor of Economics at Stockholm School of Economics, Riga, Latviaread more...»
The prospects of significant wage increases for typical UK workers are bleak, according to Professors David Blanchflower and Stephen Machin writing in the Spring 2014 issue of CentrePiece magazine from the London School of Economics.
It is quite clear that the economy is still well below full employment and there is a large amount of slack in the labour market, they say. There is little evidence of widespread skill shortages, which would push up wages; and public sector pay freezes with continuing redundancies continue to push down on workers’ bargaining power.read more...»
Nominal weekly wage growth is now running at approximately the same pace as consumer prices inflation hinting that a long period of declining real wages might be coming to an end. The precise measurement of whether real wages are no longer falling is open to doubt, what matters more is the longer run context. The UK has seen a persistent decline in real wages and this has undoubtedly affected the strength of the economic recovery from the 2008-09 recession.
As this short FT video shows, younger workers have seen the steepest declines in real wages.read more...»
Unemployment is one of the major macro-economic performance indicators. The more unemployed people in our economy the more we are producing below our potential, less income is earned (reducing saving, consumption and tax revenue) and there is a negative impact on the welfare of society.read more...»
I thought it worthwhile sharing my resources which I have been collecting for students (and teachers alike). I have been promoting them on Twitter (@Economics_KSF) through scoop.it but for those of you not on there, the link for the scoop.it boards are here:read more...»
One type of market failure that contributes to inequality and unemployment is the geographical immobility of labour.
If the labour market really ‘cleared’ effectively, wages would equalise across the economy. Workers would drift away from regions with low wages and/or high unemployment towards areas where wages were higher and labour was scarce.
Why are people finding it hard to move across the UK in search of work?read more...»
Showing critical awareness of economic statistics is an important skill for all economists.
A hat-tip to Fiona Quiddington for this article on youth unemployment from the Telegraph which analyses youth unemployment figures with a more critical eye.read more...»
In Germany the government has reluctantly agreed to introduce a minimum wage of €8.50 (£6.98) per hour. Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union party is opposed to the idea, but need to make concessions in coalition negotiations with centre-left parties such as the Social Democrats, who have campaigned for a national minimum wage.read more...»
David Smith's weekly column in the Sunday Times yesterday is worth getting hold of, to study the conundrum around stagnant productivity and rising employment. He uses data from the ONS to look at average weekly real wages, which started falling in 2008 and are still falling now, to consider whether this year will show a turnaround in real incomes.read more...»
Here is a resource (in editable word format) that I use when introducing the topic of unemployment - I find it works for students to get a sense of the numbers for employment and unemployment when we get onto the policy issues. The resource has the answers at the back!
Hope this might prove a useful classroom resource!
Here is a quick revision quiz on the economics of unemployment! Good luck!read more...»
Here are some news clips on the sharp fall in measured unemployment and a record rise in employment in the UK economy at the end of 2013. Students can find revision notes on unemployment using this linkread more...»
It was no surprise when the latest release of unemployment and employment data for the UK labour market up to the end of 2013 made headline news across the media. There was a dramatic decline in the labour force survey measure of unemployment and news of a record level of employment.
Many teachers will be covering unemployment as part of their AS macro course - I have put together six updated charts into a PowerPoint file for those who want to integrate the data charts into their teaching. Download using the link below:
PowerPoint file on Unemployment
This is an age-old debate - the extent to which emerging technologies built on robots will replace labour and scale down the number of jobs in previously labour-intensive industries. Are we still several years away from robotics eliminating millions of jobs or will the process arrive far faster than many expect? The Washington Post reports on eight ways that robots are changing labour markets: Click here
Click below for a short interview with the excellent Tom Standage from The Economist who discusses what types of robots we should be looking out for in 2014read more...»
Long term youth unemployment is a persistent structural problem for the British economy - this BBC news article provides a ray of hope as Nestle announces extra investment in their training / apprenticeships schemes for younger workers. A more pro-active approach from larger businesses would be welcome - offering paid experience to help break the catch-22 of no job without experience, no experience without a job. Nearly one million young people (16-24) are unemployed in the UK, while youth unemployment in Ireland is 28 per cent with more than 65,000 young people out of work.read more...»
A currently fashionable pessimistic topic is the lifetime prospects of children born into the middle class. Graduate debt, lack of finance to buy homes and job insecurity after they graduate, the list goes on. Alan Milburn, the government’s ‘social mobility tsar’, put the seal of approval on this prevailing angst last month. His Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission pronounced that children from families with above-average incomes are now set to enjoy a worse standard of living as adults than their mothers and fathers.read more...»
Economists like to talk about fallacies – arguments that fall apart when you look at them closely. One such fallacy is the ‘lump of labour’ delusion. If you assume there’s a fixed amount of work to be done, then if people retire later (or whatever) there must inevitably be less work for the younger workforce to do. It doesn’t add up, because the amount of work to be done isn’t fixed. More jobs in the economy and higher levels of productivity could easily create more employment and income.
In one light hearted example to illustrate this point, a French engineer and has American colleague are watching an interstate highway being built in the US. The Frenchman is alarmed by all the capital equipment and machinery used in the process. “Doesn’t that make workers unemployed?” asks the Frenchman. “In France we only use hand tools to preserve jobs”. The American is baffled. “If that were true, surely it would be better to equip the workforce with teaspoons”.read more...»
Key changes in the labour market are important in understanding developments in the British economy. Here is a selection of ten updated charts on unemployment designed as a teaching resource for colleagues covering the Unit 2 macro course. Also available for download as a pdf file.read more...»
A huge reminder about the shifts in economic power arrived with the news about the development of Hinkley C nuclear power station.read more...»
Young adults in England have scored almost the lowest result in the developed world in international literacy and numeracy tests. A study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows how England's 16 to 24 year olds are falling behind their Asian and European counterparts. England is 22nd for literacy and 21st for numeracy out of 24 countries.
New Labour and the educational establishment harangued us for years about the stupendous success of the system, as record numbers of both passes and A-grades in GCSE and A-levels were registered year after year. The OECD study, by no means the first of its kind, confirms what many suspected. Grade inflation was rampant, and the statistics had as much meaning as the pronouncements about production levels made in the Soviet Union. Actually, that is unfair. When the Soviet Union said 10 million boots had been produced, they really had been. They might have been poor quality and all left-footed, but the boots did exist. It now turns out that many people with GCSE passes can barely read and are virtually unable to add up.read more...»
Just as I am in the midst of teaching my AS students about macroeconomic indicators, and focusing on inflation and unemployment, up pops this piece by Linda Yueh about the latest data on those two indicators this week, and the Misery Index.read more...»
The presentation below provides our latest perspectives on developments in the UK economy.read more...»
The rate of unemployment in Greece has reached a record of just under 28% of the labour force. To put this into context, in 2008 just before the Global Financial Crisis engulfed much of the EU economy in recession, Greek unemployment was 7.8% (equivalent to where the UK jobless rate is today). Youth unemployment is staggeringly high - the latest figures show that 58.8% of people under the age of 25 are out of work.
There are some tentative signs that the Greek economy may be at a turning point from the trough of a deep and persistent depression. After six years of full-blown recession some macro indicators suggest that confidence is seeping back for businesses and consumers and that the government debt crisis might ease a little. Tourism, which accounts for about a fifth of Greece's economic output and one in five jobs is having a strong year - tourism exports represent an injection in the Greek economy's circular flow of income and spending. Chinese tourists seem to be coming to Greece in much greater numbers!
But Greece has suffered gravely over the last few years - the level of real GDP is 25% lower than it was before the crisis and some economists have started to refer to Greece as a sub-merging economy whose trend growth rate is now negative.read more...»
With a deep recession and persistently high rates of unemployment among younger people. fears are growing about a brain drain in Portugal as highly qualified university graduates leave the country in search of a better life. Peter Wise, Financial Times Lisbon correspondent, reports on what the trend means for the troubled Portuguese economy. Losing "the best of a generation" poses important long-term threats to the competitiveness of the Portuguese economy. Some are moving to Angola and Brazil, the UK has also attracted skilled workers in health care, banking and IT.read more...»
Channel 4 news investigates the impact of persistent and deep poverty on the lives and hopes of children in thousands of households. A potent and stark report that reminds us of the gulf in living standards and the challenges of meeting basic needs such as a decent diet that meets minimum nutritional standards.read more...»
Why is economic growth such a rare and elusive butterfly in the UK garden? What institutions and policies are needed to sustain UK economic growth in the dynamic global economy of the twenty-first century?read more...»
A new report from the Resolution Foundation provides evidence for students and teachers on the deep structural divides between well paid and low paid jobs in the British labour market. According to a report in the Guardian "Today more than one in three people aged 16-30 (2.4 million) are low-paid, compared with one in five in the 1970s (1.7 million at that time)."
There are many causes of low pay and students who look at labour market economics will be expected to explore some of them as part of their course. Most of the jobs at risk of poverty pay are relatively low skilled, temporary, mainly non-unionised, often part-time and concentrated in service sector industries such as catering, caring, catering, cleaning and retail. What are the long term economic and social dangers from a deeply embedded two-tier labour market?
The campaign for an (optional) living wage continues to gather momentum. Businesses are being urged to pay employees at least £1 per hour more than the minimum wage in a bid to lift those on the lowest pay out of poverty.read more...»
How sticky is unemployment? Will it take three years to fall?
The views expressed by the new Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney, on interest rates and unemployment remain a hot topic. Interest rates will not be raised until unemployment falls below 7 per cent, a process he thinks will take three years.read more...»
The Governor of the Bank of England has announced a change in the handling of monetary policy for the UK economy. Although the inflation target remains the same (CPI inflation of 2%) and the Bank remains committed to maintaining price stability as their main macroeconomic objective, they have decided to introduce forward guidance in the setting of policy interest rates. This takes the Bank of England closer to the approach to setting interest rates taken by the United States Federal Reserve.
Download this chart
What is forward guidance?
Forward guidance means that interest rates will stay at their historic low level of 0.5 per cent and monetary policy in general will remain expansionary until the unemployment falls below seven per cent. More here from the BBC news website.
However, that link could be put aside if the inflation rate threatens to rise above 2.5% in the medium term. Another wind-check to this system is that if the Financial Policy Committee judges that the UK economy is in danger of experiencing another credit boom then the Monetary Policy Committee will also re-visit their decisions on interest rates.
According to Ed Conway from Sky News "The UK inflation target remains in place - in theory - but in practice it has become significantly less important." Developments in the labour market and real output growth are likely to become more significant in helping to shape the future path of policy interest rates and whether monetary policy is expansionary, contractionary or neutral in its effects on the wider economy.
Sky news - Forward Guidance, a Monetary Policy Gamble
Anatole Kaletsky (Reuters): Carney at the Bank of England confirms the end of monetarism and return of neo-Keynesian demand management
With the unemployment rate currently at 7.8% of the labour force and predictions from the Bank that the jobless rate may take between two to three years to drop to the 7% way-marker, we can expect the period of exceptionally low monetary policy interest rates to remain with us well into 2015 and possibly 2016. This is not good news for savers struggling to find any kind of interest rate that at least matches the current rate of CPI inflation.
Governor Carney's response to this is to argue that what the economy needs most is a return to growth - in his words an economy growing sufficiently quickly to achieve "escape velocity". The current recovery has been the weakest for decades and real GDP remains below the peak achieved before the Global Financial Crisis took hold.read more...»
Several news sources are quoting a new report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) which estimates that as many 1 million people are on zero-hours contracts in the UK. For a summary of the report go to this link to see the CIPD version.
Zero-hours contracts are those where an employer gives no guarantees about the amount of hours an employee may work in any given period. In effect, the employee waits to find out how many hours they may be required and generally does not earn anything if they do not work. Whilst the zero-hours contract are controversial (trade unions are generally opposed and even Vince Cable is investigating their use), the CIPD report suggests that only about 14% of employees on these types of contracts do not earn a living wage.
The UK's approach to part-time, flexible and non-contract employment is often quoted as one of the reasons why unemployment figures have not matched those of previous recessions in the UK - someone on zero-hours contracts may not be classified as unemployed even if they do not work. A relatively large proportion of workers in the UK are working part-time would rather work full-time but have less choice in the current job market.
Fascinatingly, the Education sector is now one of the biggest users of zero hours contracts (approximately 35% of education establishments have at least one person employed using the method).read more...»
Access to affordable comprehensive child care and schooling is widely regarded as being crucial to improving the incentives for mothers to actively search for and take paid work. Effective early years education also has a long run positive effect on employment prospects and is important as part of the overall supply-side capacity of the economy.read more...»
In its annual assessment of the U.K. economy, the IMF called on the UK to invest in skills and infrastructure and increase banking sector competition in order to foster growth and achieve a sustainable recovery.
The report can be found here and contains plenty of relevant background information on the current situation facing the UK - here is a selection of quotes from their summary
The UK Coalition government has introduced a controversial welfare cap - imposing a maximum on the total social security spending per year for each family. The welfare cap limits households to £26,000 a year. Couples and single parents receive no more than £500 a week in benefits, while the limit for single people is £350, although there are some exemptions.
The cap is designed to ensure that benefits payments do not exceed the income of the average working household and is designed both to cut total welfare spending and as part of a strategy of improving incentives for people to actively look for and take paid work.
Critics argue that a welfare gap does little or nothing to address deeper underlying problems such as the soaring cost of renting property and the lack of affordable child care.
Social spending varies greatly across different countries. The Economist live chart below looks at some of these differences.read more...»
Miners made redundant from Maltby Colliery in Yorkshire many of whom with decades of experience faced years on the unemployment register when the mine closed earlier in 2013. But some have been thrown a lifeline with the rising demand for miners in the UK potash industry.
FOOD banks are a rapidly growing phenomenon in the UK. A few years ago, they barely existed, but an estimated half a million people now make use of them every week. On the face of it, it seems that poverty has sadly become endemic since the financial crisis, with many families unable even to feed themselves. Real incomes have declined since 2007, putting pressure on household budgets. But the pace of increasing demand is surprising.
In fact, the food bank is a market. It is, however, complex – with particular features which mean that it is likely to grow rapidly, exactly as we have seen. The key point is that food is not the only commodity traded.
Interesting article from the New York Times digging into perhaps the most worrying legacy of this Great Recession, the problem of hysteresis and structural unemployment. It looks at the causes and potential solutions as well as including some great images included below illustrating the concept.
"Unemployment is staying high despite the end of the recession because we are now in a historic transition. Because of automation, globalization, efficiency and other factors, we no longer need the share of people working that we have had in the past. With these trends moving in only one direction, it is clear that the job crisis is permanent and will not go away with better economic times."read more...»
employer's point of view, a zero hours contract is a great example of the
benefits of the flexible labour market. They allow the employer to change the
number of hours an employee works each week, with more shifts offered when they
are busy, and fewer when they are not; costs can therefore be controlled and
matched more exactly to revenue. Neil Carberry at the CBI says that they have
helped to save jobs during the recession and stagnant growth: "It's zero
hours contracts and other forms of flexible working that mean there are half a
million fewer unemployed people than there might otherwise have been." Now
figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS)
show the number of 16 to 24-year-olds on zero hours contracts has more than
doubled since the start of the economic downturn, rising from 35,000 in 2008 to
76,000 in 2012. This means that one in every three people on a zero-hours
contract is under 25 (- although that proportion doesn't look as if it has
changed very dramatically throughout the period shown). If this is good for the employer, how is it for the
For many years Professor Andrew Oswald has researched the links between home ownership levels and labour market performance. This new paper with Professor David Blanchflower takes the debate forward - they argue that rising home ownership can bring about negative externalities for the rest of the economy, damaging labour mobility and curtailing new business start-ups. It is an argument worth looking at when we discover some of the structural causes of joblessness. Read the article here
See also: It's not the deficit that will haunt our children: it's unemployment (Heather Stewart, The Observer, May 2013)
See also: Forget inflation – what hurts the most is unemployment (David Blanchflower, Independent, April 2013)
This two-minute video from The Economist analyses the growing problem of youth unemployment in selected developed economies since the start of the financial crisis in 2007, including Greece, Spain, the UK, France, US and Germany. The chilling statistic from The Economist is that almost a quarter of the world's young people eligible for employment are without a job.
Youth unemployment in the UK
In the period from June to August 2013, 958,000 young people in the UK aged 16-24 were unemployed. The unemployment rate for those aged 16-24 was 21.0%read more...»
Here is a streamed (and downloadable) presentation on policies to cut unemployment in the UK economy.read more...»
He's back but he's still angry! In this latest version of The Angry Economist, our favourite curmudgeonly analyst wants to know students' opinion on George Osborne's economic policies - no wonder his blood pressure has risen!
This simple Powerpoint resource is aimed at getting your students to analyse and evaluate economic policies - 8 of the Chancellor's policies are presented and the Angry Economist randomly picks a macro-economic objective to consider. All you have to do is get 8 volunteers from your class to do the analysing - a great 10 minute activity whilst revising for the up-coming macro exams at either GCSE, AS or A2 level.
Here is a list of the policies the Angry Economist wants students to look at (you may wish to recap on them before you start the activity):
- Reduce Government debt
- Increased number of private sector jobs
- Increased allowance before Income Tax needs to be paid
- Cut Corporation Tax
- Set up Regional Growth Fund
- Funding Lending Scheme
- Deregulating some planning rules
- Frozen Council Tax
Of course, the beauty of this resource is that you can change any of these policies to whatever you want them to be.
Click on this link to download the Angry Economist 2.
PS. Click on this link to have a look at the original Angry Economist.
Where have all the miners gone? To judge by the rhetoric of the BBC and other Leftist media outlets, whole swathes of Britain lie devastated, plagued by rickets, unemployment and endemic poverty – nearly thirty years after the pit closures under Lady Thatcher!
The reality is different. There is indeed a small number of local authority areas where employment has never really recovered from the closures in the 1980s. But, equally, there are former mining areas which have prospered.
Fantastic interactive website here lets you check out migration flows both inward and outward from any country you care to look at.
Introducing The Government Game - tutor2u's new Economic Simulation game that is just perfect for revising for AS & A2 Macroeconomic Policy topics!
Increasing foreign language proficiency could be a key policy tool for encouraging greater mobility of labour between countries of the European Union and reducing the huge differences in rates of youth unemployment. According to research by Professors Ainhoa Aparicio-Fenoll and Zoe
Kuehn, including foreign language studies in the compulsory school curriculum fosters migration across European countries.
A recent World Bank report asked ‘Where is the Wealth of Nations?’ Calculations presented at the Economic History Society’s 2013 annual conference show that for Britain, the answer is undoubtedly in its people.
Dr Jan Kunnas and his colleagues calculate that Britain’s ‘human capital’ has grown by a multiple of 123 over the past 250 years. The main drivers of this phenomenal growth have been the growth in the workforce and the growth in wages.
The researchers define human capital as the knowledge and skills embodied in individuals – and they measure it by the discounted earnings the population is expected to earn during their time in the labour force.We have an extended revision note on human capital and economic growth - read it here
The Changing Wealth of Nations - World Bank reports can be accessed here