Should we all be knocking back the (elderflower) champagne today? After all, according to figures released this morning, the UK is officially out of the recession. The figures from the Office of National Statistics show tiny positive signs, albeit nothing to write home to mother about. We all waited with baited breath for the numbers to emerge at 9.30am this morning and when they did they showed that the economy only grew by 0.1 per cent in the last three months of 2009. Economists had been expecting a figure closer to 0.4 per cent, so it was all a bit of a let down, really. What’s more, the experts are unsure how sustainable our exit from the recession is and warn that it could take years to pay back all the money the government has borrowed.
My question is this – do you feel as though your household has genuinely emerged from the recession yet? Personally, when I compare my current situation to the same period last year, I feel there are perhaps a few more pennies in my pocket. The world of freelance journalism was very badly affected by the credit crunch last year and budgets were slashed. Many staff journalists lost their jobs and were forced to go freelance, so as the pool of workers has increased, the work has also thinned.
What’s more, whole sections on newspapers and magazines have disappeared altogether due to cost cutting and reduced advertising. A friend of mine who specialises in one particular area of journalism has seen many of the sections that provided all of her work completely axed. The last time I saw her, she told me she might have to give up her flat and move in with a relative because she could no longer pay her rent. Now things are very slightly thawing in some areas, although not everywhere, and I’d hardly say we were out of the woods yet.
Other people I know in other industries who were made redundant last year – some of whom were out of work for six months or more – have got contract work, but while they’re earning, they’re still worrying about whether their contracts will be renewed. Another friend’s initial two week contract ended up being 9 months, but she is still waiting to hear if she will be kept on. A painter and decorator friend was out of work for six months now drives a lorry and works irregular hours to earn a crust and is grateful for the work. Another guy I know now works for his family’s business because his usual work has dried up. And while that uncertainty continues, there can’t be a genuine end to individuals’ personal recessions.
I was speaking to a City fund manager last week who disputed recent claims that unemployment has fallen. He pointed out that although official unemployment numbers are down, the number of people working part-time and in temporary employment had risen strongly. Many people have picked up casual work which makes the unemployment figures look better than they are.
I don’t mean to be all doom and gloom, but if anything I think we are simply entering a new and prolonged period of austerity. It’s going to take much of the new decade to pay back what we and the government owe, it’s inevitable that indirect taxes will rise and, as a result, the belt-tightening is going to continue for some time. We’re all going to have to grit our teeth and get on with it the best we can. Fortunately all the great frugal tips so many of you have kindly shared with me on the blog over the last two years, will help soften the blow!
Are we are genuinely out of the recession yet? Are we over the worst of the credit crisis or are there more challenges yet to come? Leave a message and let me know your thoughts. Thanks, Piper.
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