This is when employers think jobs market will be back to normal – Bill Jamieson

with a monumental economic crisis appearing to loom on the horizon, Bill Jamieson sees signs of hope.

Increased traffic is a sign that the economy is starting to pick up (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)

Statuary can take several forms. Take, for example, the solemn edifice of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) statistics for April due to be unveiled tomorrow. After a fall of 5.8 per cent in March, economists reckon the drop in April could be anything between 15 per cent and more than 30 per cent: the deepest recession in three centuries. Heaven help us.

But is that a reflection of our current state? Since the end of April, the furlough scheme has been extended. And more recent datasets covering real-time VAT, shipping and road traffic give a timelier story. Amid grim figures on retail sales there are signs of recovery. Retail sales shrank by 5.9 per cent in May compared with the previous year but far stronger than the 19.1 per cent collapse in April.

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And a fortnightly survey of companies by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that 10 per cent expected their workforce to decrease, compared to 30 per cent in early April.

Of those 30 per cent, one in five were still of the view that their workforce would be lower in the latest survey while 62 per cent expected staff numbers to stay the same and 12 per cent planned to hire more. The findings offer hope that warnings over two million job losses this year may be premature.

A separate survey by Manpower, while gloomy about immediate prospects, found that most employers believed the labour market would be back to normal by this time next year. Around three-quarters of 1,056 employers surveyed expect to retain staffing levels in the current quarter and just over half expect to return to pre-Covid-19 hiring levels during the beginning of next year.

As for the GDP numbers, while grim testimony to the devastation wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic, they are backwards-looking figures compared to a raft of survey data suggesting a timelier and less apocalyptic picture.

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