The economy might be stalling, but be thankful for our strong job market

The UK economy marginally grew over the first quarter of the year, according to official data, further easing concerns that the UK could soon enter a recession (PA) (PA Archive)
The UK economy marginally grew over the first quarter of the year, according to official data, further easing concerns that the UK could soon enter a recession (PA) (PA Archive)

I have seen the future — and it’s flat.

In contrast to the extraordinary gyrations in output during the deep recessions of the financial crisis and the pandemic the GDP graph is now barely flickering.

Over the winter half of the year output has hardly moved, better perhaps than the long recession forecasters were gloomily predicting last autumn, but still fairly grim. Output is yet to limp over the pre-Covid Plimsoll Line and the outlook for the next two to three years looks little different.

The Bank of England suggested yesterday that the economy might eke out around 2% of growth between 2023 and 2025. In the old days that would be about a solid par for a single year.

As I suggested yesterday, today’s GDP numbers do hint that the post-pandemic relief spending splurge that cheered the hospitality and retail sectors over Christmas, and particularly in January, may have run its course.

The second quarter will also be difficult as the slow burn of remortgaging bites into the already reduced spending power of millions of owner occupiers. The Coronation long weekend — enjoyable though it was — also does not exactly help any recovery in output.

It is hard to see where the boost might come from to get UK plc out of the slow lane.

But before we get too gloomy perhaps we should think about the economic indicator that often gets overlooked — unemployment.

By historical standards remarkably few people are involuntarily out of work. That at least, is something to be thankful for