Yesterday the government published the latest quarterly figures for output and earnings to June 30th 2015.
The UK economy is now producing 6% more than at the peak in early 2008 before the crash. The USA is producing 10% more, the EU just 1% more and Japan has the same output as Quarter 1 2008. The UK recovery has been a steady one since 2009. The last annual figure shows growth of 2.4% , after 2.9% for calendar 2014. GDP per head is also now a little higher than at the pre crash peak, and rose by 1.9% comparing the second quarter of 2015 with the same quarter the previous year. Japan’s stagnant output since 2008 is partly owing to population decline.
The best news in the figures is the growth in incomes and real incomes. Compensation for employees is up by 4.7% in the last twelve months (Q2 2015 over Q2 2014), and real disposable incomes rose by 2% just between the first and second quarters of 2015. A greater feeling of job security for many, coupled with increases in earnings, is allowing service sector expansion and more retail purchases.
The figures once again remind anyone interested in the reality that public spending continues to rise. Government spending is up 0.4% on the previous quarter and 1.6% over the last twelve months, in real terms. The balance of payments improved sharply in the second quarter after a weak first quarter. Exports were up, imports down, and the current account deficit narrowed from 5.2% of National Income in the first quarter to 3.6% in the second.
Whilst the overall money supply figures show a small contraction in money, and no growth in lending to finance a recovery, the picture is of 4% growth in money (M4) adjusted for other financial corporations as the Bank of England likes to do. Lending taking out the other financial corporations was up by 2.3%. The Bank regards this narrower measure as a closer proxy for the real economy.
All this points to a steady performance. There is no great inflation threat as higher wages are coming at a time when productivity is improving as well, whilst the prices of imports and commodities remain weak.
It would be good if the political debate and interviews could be based around this factual portrait of the UK economy based on the official figures. More needs to be done to boost output, real wages and productivity. High energy prices remain a big problem, but we have a good base for further advances in employment and living standards.