China aims to lay off 5-6 million state workers over the next two to three years as part of efforts to curb industrial overcapacity and pollution, two reliable sources said, Beijing’s boldest retrenchment program in almost two decades.
- Reuters on Tuesday
Rising unemployment that leads to social instability in China = scary and anathema to China’s leaders.
SO, also from Reuters with our emphasis:
China’s leadership, obsessed with maintaining stability and making sure redundancies do not lead to unrest, will spend nearly 150 billion yuan ($23 billion) to cover layoffs in just the coal and steel sectors in the next 2-3 years.
The overall figure is likely to rise as closures spread to other industries and even more funding will be required to handle the debt left behind by “zombie” state firms.
Hmmm. A longer timeline and funding? That almost sounds like… good news? Read more
So maybe China doesn’t need to hire a battery of statisticians to ironically count its unemployed?
You know, as a ward against a sudden spike sneaking up on the Chinese government, a government that prizes stability and its own continued rule above much else?
We’d suggested previously that China’s powers-that-be might have just as useless an insight into the true nature of China’s employment as the rest of us. Or at least, that was the fear. It wasn’t that anybody thought there was an immediate problem in the Chinese labour market — it was the not knowing, and the potential for a surprise, that got people ruffled.
That and China’s preternaturally still unemployment rate, of course, which (say those who just want to lash out at the world) has the dubious distinction of being considered the least informative among all key Chinese stats. Read more
We admit this is getting confusing.
And we admit that we are just very sceptical of anyone trumpeting SOE reform in China unless it’s being done on a massive stage made entirely of caveats.
But… this is definitely food for thought. Read more
Some thought-provoking paragraphs on China this Friday from Stephen Lewis, chief economist, at ADM Investor Services International, regarding the reliability of the country’s jobs data. He starts with this useful reminder:
Of the ten conflicts in human history with the highest death tolls, five were civil wars in China. Chief among these was the Three Kingdoms War (184-280 CE) when up to 40 million are reckoned to have perished in military operations and from the destructive consequences of warfare. This is an enormous number, considering that the global population at that time is unlikely to have exceeded 400 million. More recently, the Taiping Rebellion (1850-1864) claimed more than 20 million lives while the civil war that brought the Communist Party to power in 1949 resulted in 7.5 million deaths, over and above the 20 million estimated to have been killed in the roughly contemporary Japanese invasion. This is not the history we were taught at school but Chinese leaders are well aware of these facts. When disorder breaks out in China, things turn very nasty indeed. It is best, therefore, to avoid disorder at almost any cost.
Wanted: A go-getting, self starter with no appetite for tautology and with a mandate to fully count unemployment in the world’s second largest economy. Must leak to press if not allowed to report findings.
Remember Xi who must keep you employed? The idea that social stability, rather then employment per se, is what the Party really cares about. Remember also how the unemployment stats we and, very possibly, they are working with are a bit rubbish? And that it’s possible the Party will be reacting to problems rather than preempting them?
Well, an attempt by Shuaizhang Feng, Yingyao Hu and Robert Moffitt to add some clarity to China’s dodgy unemployment numbers raises some fresh questions about the Party’s control of the economy. Read more
This man is in charge of China. Like, really in charge:
And he wants to make sure everyone he’s in charge of remains nice and calm. So he’d like them kept busy. That, for the most part, means they should be working — call it a social compact or call it a security measure, it doesn’t really matter. Read more
The latest Canadian jobs data certainly make it seem so. Perhaps the better question is: has the Canadian economy already hit its peak for this cycle?
Some highlights we dug out from the guts of the report: Read more
Glimmers of hope in Spain, which has adjusted its economy (cut labour costs) and is peering around the corner of recovery. Credit Suisse has sufficient confidence to upgrade its views on some of the banks.
They would now buy Caixabank and Popular, while Sabadell gets a reprieve from the sell list.
We see Spanish banks approaching a ‘turnaround’ in the earnings cycle after material progress in terms of funding, capital and Non Performing Asset recognition, and with superior operating leverage adding appeal to the story…
Here’s a rough sketch of the variables influencing US inflation, which has been remarkably low for two years running:
1) The remaining labour market slack, including a staggering and resilient long-term unemployment problem. The amount of slack remains tough to know given the difficulty of measuring the cyclical vs secular components of the fall in the labour force participation rate. Much more on this later.
2) The output gap. This isn’t a well-defined idea, we know, but few people would argue that the US economy is producing at potential. The US economic recovery does appear to have accelerated in the final two quarters of last year (the December jobs report notwithstanding), and the conditions for growth look better than they have in years. If the nascent acceleration proves sustainable, then the labour market may well tighten up and push wages higher. Obviously this is related to the first point about labour market slack, and plenty of caveats are needed given the head-fakes of the last four winters. Read more
Is it only going to get worse before it gets better?
Societe Generale think so: as the chart says, they’re expecting it to reach 30 per cent in 2015 (from an already-awful and record-breaking 27.2 per cent, at last count). Read more
Some stagnant stats out of Eurostat on Tuesday….
Euro area unemployment rate at 12.1%
EU27 at 10.9%
Here’s the damage, broken down… Read more
(Chart from El Pais with thanks… though please label the axes in the future. It drove us a little crazy.) Read more
From a note Wednesday morning by ConvergEx (emphasis ours): Read more
Hugh Small is an independent economic analyst and management consultant, who was formerly with US-based firms Arthur D. Little and A. T. Kearney. He blogs at mature economy.org, and has a running thesis that mature economies must be assessed differently to developing economies because they share very different strategic goals.
Furthermore, once you factor in the subtle differences that apply to developed economies, things like the UK productivity puzzle begin to look a little less mysterious. Read more
Just passing along this chart (click to enlarge) we came across on page 41 of the big ILO global employment report:
You know what doesn’t often conjure images of economic happiness? The 1970s, that’s what. And the argument coming from some quarters right now is that Europe, or at least its periphery, is heading back into such a period of stagnation and chronic inflation with unemployment leading the way. Read more
You really do wonder how long this trend can be allowed to continue. From Eurostat on Tuesday…
If increased proportions of older workers are squeezing out some of the younger would-be workers there could be a significant downside in the longer term — ironically, due to the ageing population. Read more
Not the kind of youth sacrifice once practiced by the Aztecs, the Inca, and the Carthaginians in order please distant, fickle gods if course. We’ve moved on a bit since then.
Then again, it’s still the younger generation that generally draws the short straw in a crisis… Read more
Today’s China flash PMIs have been a little challenging to unpick. Inventories are down and input and output prices are up — but order backlogs are down, and so is employment, which HSBC notes is contracting at a faster rate. So the mountains of inventory are shrinking and price deflation (against trend) is no longer happening… but employment is down? Read more
Greek unemployment hit a new record high of 25.1 per cent in July, having climbed for 35 straight months. It’s now more than double the eurozone average of 11.4 per cent and youth unemployment — between 15 and 24 years old — has hit 54.2 per cent. That’s scary and pretty hard to argue with but there is always a bit of context available.
A few notes on the report as we make our way through it:
– This sentence caught our eye: Read more
Eurozone unemployment depression is naturally even more divergent on a regional level. Data released by Eurostat reveals just how divergent and paints a fairly consistent, and depressing, picture. So we have Salzburg in Austria sitting pretty with only 2.5 per cent of its populations in the jobless category while Andalucia in Spain has to grapple with a rate of 30.4 per cent. The youth unemployment divide is even starker – 54.4 per cent in Andalucia, Spain versus 4.3 per cent in Tubingen, Germany.
Overall, eight of the ten regions with the highest levels of unemployment were in Spain, while Greece played host to one and France another. The youth unemployment stats share the pain a little more equally between the same three countries. Austria and Germany dominate the opposite columns. Read more
Increasing unemployment disproportionately affects the young. While policymakers have been pre-occupied with sovereign and financial crises, the generation with no actual experience of holding down a job just had to wait. For how long will this spectre haunt economies?
Using statistics from the European Union Labour Force Survey for January 2012 (but November 2011 for Greece), the UBS Global Macro Team gives us the following headline unemployment rates in a note released earlier this week: Read more
FT Alphaville has written a fair amount about seasonal distortions in economic data but thought this latest piece of research from Nomura was worth highlighting
(mostly because it involves time-travel).
It pokes a small but important hole in the surprisingly low 348k new US claims for unemployment insurance which were filed in the week ending 11 February, the fewest since March 2008. Read more
A chart via Nomura to keep in the back of your head as you eagerly anticipate this Friday’s BLS employment situation report in the US:
Unemployment figures have highlighted the widening gap between Germany and many fellow eurozone members, a day after Angela Merkel secured a new treaty enshrining Berlin’s vision for tough fiscal discipline, the FT reports. Unemployment in the 17 euro countries climbed to 10.4 per cent in December, with the November rate revised upwards to the same rate, setting a fresh record since the introduction of the single currency in 1999. So-called “peripheral” members such as Spain and Greece recorded the highest rates, of 22.9 per cent and 19.2 per cent. On the other side of the Atlantic, worries over the job market and higher petrol prices dragged US consumer confidence lower this month, while house prices across the country fell as foreclosures continued to forestall a recovery in residential property, reports the FT. Confidence unexpectedly declined in January to 61.1 from 64.8 in December, the Conference Board said on Tuesday, missing economists’ expectations of a rise to 68. The index is measured on a scale of 100 pegged to the level of confidence in 1985.
When you start talking about US growth in 2012, it’s hard to stop. The huge November consumer credit increase being a case in point. Plus a long slew of comfy data on auto sales, jobs…
So if you’re looking for a snappy corrective — here’s a précis of the opposite view, penned by Bob “the Bear” Janjuah of Nomura: Read more
The latest ADP numbers for private sector jobs in the US have demolished expectations: 325k jobs were created November-December against estimates that ranged from +145k to +225k.