Today’s release shows that the standardised unemployment rate, which is based on the Live Register, rose to 11% in March from 10.4% in February. Over the past three months, the unemployment rate has risen by 2.4%, compared with an increase of 1.4% over the previous three months.
In terms of projecting GDP for the year, these figures suggest to me that the current “consensus” figure of something like a 6 percent (average-over-average) decline for 2009 is highly optimistic. It is hard to see this huge jump in unemployment as consistent with anything other than a substantial contraction in output in first quarter. With output having fallen by around 7 percent on a Q4-over-Q4 basis last year (whether measured on a GDP or GNP basis) the cumulative loss in output from peak has perhaps already reached 10 percent as we speak.
Once you factor in the contractionary effect of the upcoming budget, it is hard to see the economy producing a quick turnaround after the first quarter. Working through the various scenarios along the lines of my post from last week, it’s very hard to see an average-over-average growth rate better than -8% this year and very easy to imagine scenarios that are worse.