Longer lockdown based on hypotheticals would come with serious economic costs

The penny is finally beginning to drop. The health service’s focus on giving absolute priority to the treatment of Covid-19 generates costs and problems on a massive scale. Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, has warned of the huge pressures on the NHS from the backlog of non-Covid cases. Many of these are life-threatening […]

Businesses face a fresh tipping point of staff shortages and wage hikes

For years, inflation has not been an issue. Since the late 1990s, annual inflation in the UK has averaged 2 per cent, with a peak of just over 4 per cent. In the US, there was a similar story, with even less variability. This is in stark contrast to the 1970s and 1980s, when the […]

To level up, Boris Johnson needs to build homes in satellite towns

A key priority for the government is to revive the fortunes of Britain’s old industrial towns.  Boris Johnson promised to bring jobs and skills directly to these areas, so people no longer need to leave in order to prosper. The economic revival of regional cities in the past two decades or so has put even […]

Unemployment has stabilised but there will be economic pain ahead

There are high levels of business optimism. Survey after survey has told us this, from reports from Deloitte on large companies to evidence from the Federation of Small Businesses. Consumer savings are at an all-time high. People are itching to get out and spend the money they have been forced to accumulate. All in all, […]

Burnley and Asda are unlikely warnings of debt-driven troubles

It has been a week of mixed messages. Not just on the release from lockdown, but on the economy. The Bank of England indicated that banks have been given six months to prepare for negative interest rates. The Monetary Policy Committee was quick to clarify that this did not mean that they would necessarily cut […]

Our tech advances are difficult for productivity stats to compute

One of the most depressing aspects of the decade of the 2010s, well before Covid-19 struck, was the apparently very slow growth in productivity. This is not a mere ivory tower issue.  It is only through increasing productivity that rises in living standards can be sustained. Productivity is the key measure of the efficiency of […]

Lockdown 2.0: A creative destruction revolution, or the death knell of innovation?

So Boris Johnson has failed to follow his own government’s guidelines on cost-benefit appraisal. Study after study by economists show that the costs of lockdown far exceed the benefits. The NHS — the “envy of the world” — has conspicuously failed to develop sufficient capacity to deal with a second wave, despite having had months […]

The national productivity recovery depends on getting people back to the office

Office workers continue to display reluctance to return to their workplaces, despite encouragement from the government for them to head back. The immediate consequences for the service jobs in cities which depend on people commuting into the office are apparent, hence the government drive. But is office work a good thing for the workers themselves? […]

Great expectations: The Darwinian wars of economic and epidemiological forecasting

Opposites

A key concept in modern economics is, to use the jargon term, rational expectations. The idea has dominated orthodox macroeconomics over the past 30 years. Not all economists have been persuaded of its merits by any means, but nevertheless, its influence has extended far beyond academia, into finance ministries and central banks around the world. […]