Chief economist Andy Haldane predicts a rapid recovery from the pandemic. He says consumer spending has helped UK claw back as much as half of losses. He insists ‘now is time to see economic glass as half full rather than half empty’
Britain's economy is on course for a rapid recovery from the coronavirus crisis, a senior Bank of England official predicts today.
Chief economist Andy Haldane says strong consumer spending has already helped the UK claw back as much as half of the losses triggered by the pandemic.
He insists ‘now is the time to see the economic glass as half full rather than half empty’ – as official statistics reveal a sharp increase in the number of white collar workers returning to their offices.
Responding to the figures, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: ‘Our economy has been hit hard by the virus, but the statistics out today show promise of Britain bouncing back.
‘The recovery won’t be easy but if we all play our part, either by going back to work in our offices or enjoying a meal out, we can overcome this together and come out stronger than before.’
Writing in the Daily Mail, Mr Haldane says the economy is expected to expand by more than a fifth in the second half of the year, which would be ‘by far the fastest rise’ since quarterly records began.
He says: ‘The foundations for an economic recovery – a rapid one – are already in place, hiding in plain sight. Economic activity in the UK is not falling like stone, in fact it has now been rising for more than three months, sooner than anyone expected. It has also recovered far faster than anyone expected.’
His upbeat intervention comes after it was confirmed on Wednesday that Britain has plunged into recession, with GDP falling by a record 20.4 per cent in the second quarter of this year.
But official figures also revealed that after collapsing in April – the first full month of lockdown – the economy expanded by 2.4 per cent in May and 8.7 per cent in June.
An Office for National Statistics report yesterday suggested almost half of Britons commuted to work last week as pleas by Boris Johnson to return to the office appeared to be making an impact.
Under guidance, which came into effect at the beginning of the month, employers were urged to encourage white collar staff to go back to the office if it is safe to do so. Previously the advice was to work from home if possible.
The ONS report showed 48 per cent of people commuted to work last week, up from just 29 per cent towards the end of May.
It also showed that 23 per cent worked solely from home, down from a peak of 38 per cent in mid-June. And last week just 3 per cent of workers said they were furloughed, down from 15 per cent in May.
A healthy dose of optimism can save jobs, writes Bank of England chief economist ANDY HALDANE
After a week of relentlessly grim forecasts about the economic calamity we’re hurtling towards, could there possibly be a glimmer of light in all the gloom?
In today’s Mail, Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane makes no bones about the scale of the challenges ahead – or the pain they will cause.
The Bank predicts the collapse in economic activity will push unemployment up to 2.5million by the end of the year (a conservative estimate), with the young, poor and least-skilled being worst affected.
This is far more than mere numbers. Every job lost means a life thrown into chaos, a person or family worrying about how to pay the bills.
But for all the anxiety, Mr Haldane struck a note of cautious optimism. The foundations for recovery are already there, he said, ‘hiding in plain sight’.
Far from continuing to plummet, GDP has been rising at roughly 1 per cent a WEEK for the past three months and the UK has already recovered half its Covid losses.
Car sales are back to pre-virus levels, and while the High Street is still deep in crisis, online purchases have risen by 70 per cent and spending on electrical goods, DIY and takeaways is soaring.
Mr Haldane expects national income to rebound by 20 per cent in the second half of this year. And though unemployment will continue to rise in the short-term, he believes that with continued Bank and Government support, the worst of this recession will be over quickly.
However, there is a giant obstacle on the road back to prosperity, and that is fear, which can be as contagious and damaging as Covid itself.
The health risk from the virus is tumbling, with death rates down 95 per cent and local spikes being well contained by local measures.
Yet Britain has been slower to get back to work than the rest of Europe. True, nearly 50 per cent of people travelled into work last week. But that’s still too few.
With face masks and distancing giving extra confidence on public transport and the imminent return of schools allowing parents to resume their jobs, we must get back to a semblance of normality.
Or as Mr Haldane put it, ‘generate a virtuous circle of spending, jobs and incomes’.
The Civil Service and big corporations should be giving a lead, yet sadly they seem in no hurry to resume business as usual. Some are happy for their employees to work from home until well into next year. This institutional indolence has to stop.
The Bank and Chancellor Rishi Sunak can pave the way to getting this country back on track before the economic damage of Covid becomes irreversible. But the rest is up to all of us. Workers of Britain: Your country needs you.