Not so great in 2008

Festive cheer and seasonal goodwill seem to be in very short supply among the nation's trade bodies; both the TUC and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development are eagerly taking advantage of a slow news day to punt out their bleak predictions for the economy – and jobs in particular – for 2008.

Last Updated: 11 Oct 2010
First up, the CIPD. Chief Economist John Philpott reckons that: ‘This will be the worst year for jobs this decade, and easily the worst since the Labour government came to power in 1997.’ Why not tell us what you really think, we can take it. It’s all because, he says, the coming jobs slowdown will hit both public and private sectors simultaneously, whereas for the past decade it has been a case of growth in one sector cancelling out any lull in the other. ‘The engine of job creation will be spluttering right across the economy’ he concludes, ominously. Happy New Year to you too, John.

Next comes our old mate Brendan Barber of the TUC. His hardly earth-shattering forecast is that there are more credit-crunch related troubles in the pipeline. Whatever you paid for that crystal ball, Brendan, it was too much. Or to put it another way, Northern Rock is just the tip of the iceberg. (Normally we would never get such a mangled metaphor past MT’s chief sub, but as he is currently ‘offline’ somewhere in North London, it’s open season on all his pet hates. Another unrelated participle clause, anybody?).

Anyway, back to the story. Surprise, surprise, Barber also counsels against government proposals to limit public sector pay rises to 2% over the next three years, warning that, ‘It does not just threaten the recruitment, retention and morale of public servants but will damage an industrial relations system that has minimised conflict in the public sector.’ That sounds suspiciously like the kind of ‘pay up or we’ll strike’ rhetoric that got the unions such a bad name back in the 70s. It’s time to move on…

But in an effort to inject some New Year optimism into the proceedings, here’s the MT take on all this doom and gloom. If you look at the CIPD’s numbers , rather than listen to its soundbites, then we can expect a rise in total employment next year of 75,000 – that’s 0.25%. No, it’s nothing like as much as the 0.75% rise of last year, but it’s still growth. Ditto public sector pay. It’s not growing as fast as it was but it is still growing. At 2.5% annually; or rather more than inflation, if you prefer.

Just to be clear, we’re not suggesting that 2008 will be anything other than a bit of a come down from a decade of good times and soaring economic growth. The credit crunch, inflationary pressures and global economic wobbles all combine to make that pretty much certain, even necessary. But a slowdown is not a recession, and it is much less likely to lead to one if we maintain what the survival experts call a positive mental attitude. Will 2008 be half full or half empty? It’s largely up to you.

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