The news that Britain has slipped back into a recession should not be surprising. The economy experienced a 0.2 % fall following the decline in the figure of 0.3% in previous quarter which now puts the economy technically into a double dip recession- the first time since 1975. I would argue that the local economy has probably never recovered from the recession 4 years ago. As a guess the North Staffs economy has shrunken by about 8-10% since 2008. The signs of a turn down are everywhere most noticeably in the local jobs market. If we take the Sentinel as a guide the Wednesday section has been advertising around 300 jobs over recent weeks.
Earlier in the year this was up to around 500 and has fallen back again. There are very few jobs in the public sector. In 2004 they were advertising around about 1,000. Its highly likely that many jobs are now advertised on Web sites but the type of job that is being advertised part time, agency and commission suggests to me that the local economy is still sickly.
From my own anecdotal evidence I do speak to people about how their jobs are going. Construction seems flat while some service industries such as furniture providers and agricultural engineers/ services are doing well. In the later case this might be seasonal.
There is also the question of disposable income ASDA did a survey on purchasing patterns and found that shoppers in the south east had 6 times the disposable income than those in the North East. It is likely that marginal income in North Staffs is closer to the North East than it is to the Greater London area.
It is also noticeable that more foodbanks are opening in the area. The local CABx report that debt enquiries are rising and poverty levels are soaring.
Is this the worst recession over the last hundred years? Probably as in the case of the recession of the early 1930s the worst impact of the recession lasted about 18 months in North Staffs. The worst year 1932 saw a rise in unemployment of around 20% but the export trade quickly improved especially after the Gold Standard was abandoned. Export goods became cheaper as the value of the £ fell. In terms of length and severity you probably have to go back to the Great Depression of the 1870s when the combination of unregulated banks, property and land speculation and indebtedness- sound familiar- led to an economic collapse. The process was accelerated by falling food prices from the States and elsewhere which damaged the local agriculture in the UK causing endemic problems that were only resolved by WWI. Or it could that the post Napoleonic War slump in which public debt rose to 200% of GDP compared to the 65% in the Gordon Brown years. Poverty and unemployment led to riot and insurrection leading to the Peterloo Massacre in 1819.
The problem with this recession unlike the one in the 1980s is that although unemployment went up to 3 million by 1986 jobs in the manufacturing sector still did exist which a study of the jobs pages of local papers would suggest, We still had steel, mines and potbanks in the 80s which were still recruiting.
The problem is jobs that do exist tend to be in low skilled, low paid jobs such as care work and retail. The success of such jobs relies on people having purchasing power which they do not seem to have.
Oatcake anyone, to go with your double dip?