Two Portents for the Future

Posted on Apr 12, 2023. by NTI

Sydney Harris had a point when he said: "A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past, he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future." (We should point out here that Sydney would have identified by the pronouns 'he/him' had he realised such a thing was to become 'a thing' in the future, but he certainly didn't predict such a point would ever need to be made ... in the future, that is)

Today (Wednesday 12 April) is about the future, with two stories hitting the home screens of news publications. The first is that, after a 24 month sabbatical for some, there are signs job-hunters are returning to the market, sniffing out opportunities. In a survey of recruiters published yesterday staff availability rose for the first time since February 2021 as workers’ perception of the wider climate for jobs improved. However, the same survey also said that employers remain 'uncertain'; about employees present and future and, presumably, what Tony Danker was thinking as the rose-coloured mist allegedly descended at the CBI.

The report isn't, of itself, overly enthused; it states there is a 'relative improvement' in confidence among job seekers. However, this is a good thing overall, as policymakers at the Bank of England have warned that the lack of workers could weigh on the UK’s growth potential, while the Office for Budget Responsibility predicts that Government measures to increase access to childcare, announced in the March budget, will reverse only a fraction of the decline.

In short, it should be getting a little easier for businesses to hire over the next few months.

This is good, because the other portent we alluded to at the top of this bulletin is less promising. We have never been great fans of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) here in the NTI newsroom, principally because they are not very good at their job. What they are good at, mind, is to report the numbers once they have happened and claim the fact of them as victories. So, it is with salt on our lips that we report the IMF has downgraded its outlook for the world economy after recent turmoil in the banking sector dampened optimism for growth. Whilst doing so they have been particularly mean about the UK which, it says, will retain its place as the worst-performing big economy this year, despite a 0.3 per cent growth upgrade from January. 

Only us and Germany share report cards amongst the 'big world economies' which reveal projected contraction in 2023. Specifically, the Fund say that the UK will contract by 0.3 per cent this year, while Germany will suffer a 0.1 per cent hit. To stamp further on our parade the IMF reckon that Russia’s economy will expand by 0.7 per cent, although it falls short of predicting that North Korea will win the Eurovision Song Contest next month and GQ will announce Prince Andrew as 'The Man Most Likely To'.

The IMF also deals with inflation in its most recent report. It thinks global core inflation will fall to 5.1 per cent by the end of the year, 0.6 percentage points higher than its January projection. We at NTI want to point out that this January projection was only two months ago, so why don't we just ignore what is being said at the moment and report the changes of mind in a couple of months time?

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