We seem to be receiving conflicting messages about the recession at the moment. On the one hand, the number of unemployed rose by 24,400 in August (see BBC report). This represents a slight improvement in performance over July (an increase of 24,900), but is worse than a simple trend might suggest (an increase of 13,000). However, both July and August do contain the impact of school and university leavers, so perhaps they might be expected to yield results that are worse than trend.
On a different note, anecdotal evidence suggests to me that retail sales are rising and that people are spending money again. As a reward for good behaviour, I decided to award myself a new i-Pod 160 Gig ahead of a trip to Switzerland in October. I tried the shops in Ipswich town centre last Tuesday, but established that they can’t be found for love or money. On Friday I tried the out of town stores around Ipswich. Once again – you couldn’t buy one for love nor money. I was told at Currys Digital (part of the DSG group) that they were flying out of the store as soon as the stock came in. It was the same story at Comet. At £189 a unit ($US 264 or €208), people are prepared to buy large ticket electrical items.
This in itself is not enough to question the recession. After all, the i-Pod 160 Gig is a fashion item. Something that the fashionistas drool over. The shortage could be one of cool rather than anything else. It was the response that I received in HMV that made me question whether or not the recession continues. In HMV, I was served – or not as the case may be – by the rudest shop assistant I have encountered for a long time. No, they didn’t have any i-Pods. No, she didn’t know when the next delivery would be. No, she couldn’t care whether I bought one or not. No, she didn’t care if I took my money out of the store, never to return. No, she didn’t care if I told everyone I know how awful their ‘service’ is.
That led me to conclude that the recession is coming to an end. When a shop assistant isn’t fussed about making a sale and can’t be bothered to do anything about it suggests that either the store is about to go bust (I can’t see this happening) or the store doesn’t need my money (the recession is over). I think that it is the latter rather than the former.