Headlines are headlines. British unemployment plummeted from 7.4 per cent between August and October to 7.1 per cent between September and November. This puts it 0.1 percentage points away from the point the Bank of England said it would start considering raising interest rates. It is a big story but there has to be a question whether the unemployment rate is a false friend to the BoE. Could it be suggesting strength in the labour market and a drop in slack that other labour market measures do not show.
Luckily, when the BoE introduced guidance, it published a pentagon diagram of other labour market indicators. It is inserted below and each point shows the same degree of slack, pretty much, (1 standard deviation from normal levels). I call it the BoE’s presumptive pentagon. It was presumptive because it was suspiciously regular (rarely things show such a consistent message in economic data) and it presumed unemployment would behave similarly to other indicators. The time has come to find out. Read more