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May 25, 2017

The ECB is concerned about eurozone unemployment

The ECB's latest economic bulletin contains two articles on unemployment in the eurozone, one on youth unemployment and another on assessing the labour market slack, which make for sobering reading if one feels that the eurozone is on a track of steady economic recovery.

As the bulletin stresses, long-term unemployment has a scarring effect on workers, but this is especially severe when it happens at the start of one's career. This is why youth unemployment should be a particular cause for concern. Youth unemployment peaked in 2013, and has been declining since while the ratio of the youth unemployment rate to overall unemployment has remained stable. Commenting on these observations Bill Mitchell notes that the stable ratio of youth to overall unemployment implies that the problem is not with the youth jobseekers, but that there is a systemic shortage of jobs that affects younger and older workers alike.

On labour market slack, the bulletin notes that restrained wage growth would be a prima facie indicator of substantial unutilised labour resources, even as unemployment is on the decline. The focus on wage growth links this with Mario Draghi's comments at a recent ECB monetary policy press conference that in order for inflation to be sustainably on target wages need to grow more strongly. The bulletin argues that to understand the observed wage moderation one has to look at broader measures of underemployment rather than just at the headline measure of unemployment, which is rather narrowly defined. Over 3% of the eurozone working age population is "marginally attached", meaning they are categorised as inactive, while in reality they are seeking work but not with sufficient intensity to be classified statistically as part of the active population. Another 3% of the population is underemployed in the sense that they are working fewer hours that they would like, for instance because they have a part-time job when they would prefer a full-time job. Combining these estimates with the headline unemployment rate of under 10% results in an estimate of broad unemployment at about 18% of the labour force. 

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May 25, 2017

The eurogroup’s failure to act

What exactly happened at the eurogroup on Monday, and who is responsible for the stalemate, is not really important. What is important is that the eurogroup once again failed to settle what they promised in 2012 when they first suggested that Greek debt relief could be considered if necessary, writes Nick Malkoutzis. Despite all the talks and preparations, the parties were unable to reach an agreement on Monday. This will weigh on Greek politics and discredits Alexis Tsipras. Further procrastination will also weigh on the Greek economy. Tsipras pushed through parliament a package of measures in the understanding that it cleared the way for debt relief. If this does not happen, or even if it is postponed for a few of months, the Greeks will be right to feel duped. This is his sober conclusion:

"It would mean Greece being sold short again in the latest discussions about restoring some normality. Once more, its future would fall victim to domestic political reservations, conservative economic thinking, flawed crisis management, institutional inertia and lenders shirking. This would be a deeply demoralising blow after the labours of the last decade."

As things stand it looks like they will go back to the eurogroup in three weeks' time, discussing the same proposal Euclid Tsakalotos refused. Greece will then face this dilemma: accept a compromise that involves a loan disbursement but no debt relief proposals for now, or run the risk of defaulting in July. Greece entering into a negotiation with its back against the wall happened so many times, one may start to wonder why this keeps happening again and again.

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May 25, 2017

Some thoughts on UK election math

We reported recently on the rise in opinion poll support for Labour, but Matt Singh notes in the Financial Times that this is not really a close election even if more events intrude. He has compiled an index that takes in the polls, adjusts for historical bias and a number of other factors, and comes up with a Tory lead in the mid-teens. He points out that opinion polls have traditionally underestimated support for the Tories, except in 1983 (which was another period when the Labour Party turned to the left). But he says important cross-checks are the leaders' political ratings and the recent local election results, all of which support the Conservatives.

A question not debated openly in the UK is whether the Manchester terror attack will have an impact on the election. Theresa May was interior minister before she became what she is today, and her immediate response to the attacks was to raise the terror threat to critical - the highest level - and put troops on the streets. Presumably, the intent is to increase her self-declared qualities of being "strong and stable", which has become the main catchphrase in this election.

We are wondering, however, whether her macho response to the attack might backfire. 

Simon Jenkins noted a truly tough response to terrorism would be not to overreact. 

“True toughness would downplay it, avoid the grandstanding and empty rhetoric, the machismo of soldiers and gunships. It would avoid the easy slither into a bruised and weakened liberty that is now the most menacing threat.”

Jonathan Freedland also notes that troops are being deployed in the middle of an election campaign, and wonders whether May is doing this for political reasons. 

Matt Singh is probably right that the Tories will win big, but we disagree with one of his assertions that the lead is now so big that events cannot intrude. The lesson of the elections and referendums over the last 12 months shows that they can and they do. The main lesson is not the populists always win, but that electorates have become less stable - and thus less prone to act in a predictable way.

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May 25, 2017

So who is the next most likely US ambassador to the EU?

We really had to laugh out loud when we read this story in the Wall Street Journal this morning. The US state department and the White House have now confirmed that a certain Ted Malloch has never been in the running for the job of US ambassador to the EU. He was not even a candidate. The story reminds us of The Captain of Köpenick by Carl Zuckmeier - a hilarious reality-based drama of a self-declared captain who got everyone to follow his orders in a district of Berlin.

This story is in many respect the modern-day counterpart. Malloch is a eurosceptic US academic, who declared himself to be the next US ambassador, and gets treated as such by the media and by governments as though this were a fact. The WSJ reports that he was greeted as Mr Ambassador on a visit to Poland. At a recent conference in Brussels, he was referred to as the possible next US ambassador. The article quotes a number of Polish politicians expressing a firm belief that he is Donald Trump's true mouthpiece. Malloch himself, when confronted with the question of why he has not even been nominated, reaffirmed that he had been interviewed for the position twice, and that an announcement would be forthcoming soon. You couldn't make this up.

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  • How anti-semitism became one of the main issues in British politics
  • November 13, 2017
  • A pro-European list: Wauquiez' nightmare
  • Catalan separatism isn't going away
  • Why oh why does Germany behave the way it does?
  • Why the four freedoms matter
  • February 02, 2017
  • Will it come to the use of force in Catalonia?
  • The day Brexit became irreversible
  • Can Trump and May succeed?
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • October 29, 2019
  • People's Vote descends into Civil War
  • CDU at odds on dealing with extreme parties
  • February 13, 2019
  • What to make of the man in the pub - and other tales
  • Macron loses more early advisers - or cuts them loose
  • June 01, 2018
  • Will France and Germany stick together in their response to US trade tariffs?
  • From a eurozone budget to a slush fund
  • September 18, 2017
  • Why Germany cannot lead Europe, let alone the free world
  • Will Macron help to build up Mélenchon?
  • Boris' Coup
  • January 05, 2017
  • French Socialist primaries - old wine in new bottles
  • Le Pen's hard ecu
  • Will Tusk get a second mandate?
  • Themes of 2017
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • May 09, 2019
  • The EU's impossible dilemma
  • The horsetrading starts in Sibiu
  • May to bring withdrawal bill to Commons week after next
  • September 27, 2018
  • Two ways out of the Brexit impasse
  • February 16, 2018
  • How big will the euro budget be?
  • July 10, 2017
  • EU in self-destruction mode
  • The EU's fault lines
  • Fake News and Fake views
  • November 30, 2016
  • Is Russia behind a massive cyber attack in Germany?
  • Will Fillon move to the centre?
  • The Dutch left field is getting crowded
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • October 18, 2019
  • The horrifying implications of Merkel’s 5G decision
  • April 17, 2019
  • Why it is far from clear that the grand coalition will survive the year
  • Macron's chance and challenge
  • Eurozone firms' surprising response to sagging profits
  • The result of Spain's elections, a riddle wrapped in mystery
  • The MMT debate is coming to Europe - and Germany
  • Greek parliament seeks German war reparations
  • October 15, 2018
  • Black Brexit smoke
  • Bettel can relax and stay in office
  • Solving the crime vs solving the problem
  • April 16, 2018
  • Italy's and Germany's pained response to the Syria attacks
  • On the end of the eurozone's economic honeymoon
  • Why Bulgaria should stay out of the euro
  • Where shall we meet after Brexit?
  • October 16, 2017
  • What‘s the deep meaning of the elections in Lower Saxony?
  • Can Brexit be revoked?
  • Macron's grand narrative
  • April 19, 2017
  • Shadows of money
  • Breppe Grillo vs Eurointelligence
  • October 20, 2016
  • No games please, we are Europeans
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • November 14, 2019
  • Are France and Germany finally converging on security policy? We think they might.
  • July 04, 2019
  • What will the European Parliament do?
  • February 21, 2019
  • Sound and fury, but Brexit reality unchanged
  • Supertanker Deutschland moves to join internet age
  • October 12, 2018
  • A deal so close, and yet so far
  • AfD leaves Germans speachless and helpless
  • June 04, 2018
  • German discourse out of control
  • Wait for European disunity on US tariffs
  • January 24, 2018
  • AfD europhobe to chair of Bundestag's budget committee
  • Watch out for the Labour Party debate on the single market
  • On the productivity puzzle
  • September 18, 2017
  • Why Germany cannot lead Europe, let alone the free world
  • Will Macron help to build up Mélenchon?
  • Boris' Coup
  • May 12, 2017
  • What to do with Germany’s tax windfall
  • How Macron counts on building a majority
  • Options for the eurozone
  • January 05, 2017
  • French Socialist primaries - old wine in new bottles
  • Le Pen's hard ecu
  • Will Tusk get a second mandate?
  • Themes of 2017
  • August 30, 2016
  • Brexit facts on the ground
  • Burkinis and Republican primaries
  • The SPD and TTIP
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • November 18, 2019
  • Is Macron facing another uprise against elites?
  • Forget the inflation target: Lagarde’s job is much bigger.
  • October 07, 2019
  • What did Conte know?
  • August 27, 2019
  • Remain’s narrowing pathway
  • Macron's diplomatic masterstroke
  • July 08, 2019
  • Instex, forever around the corner?
  • Why Rory Stewart is not really what Remainers should be looking for
  • May 31, 2019
  • Salvini’s frightening strength
  • The significance of Corbyn’s latest flipflop on the referendum
  • April 24, 2019
  • May's final and biggest gamble
  • Will the EP be Brexit's great parliamentary beneficiary?
  • Can Loiseau fight the far right given her past?
  • March 13, 2019
  • Not really all that meaningful
  • Will the EPP merely put Orban on probation?
  • Why AKKs riposte to Macron is deeply disturbing
  • February 07, 2019
  • Forget Tusk - the real action is elsewhere
  • On David Malpass and the Trump legacy
  • January 04, 2019
  • Will the AfD become the Dexit party?
  • Romania's corruption problem in the spotlight of its EU presidency
  • November 22, 2018
  • Warsaw submits to ECJ in conflict over supreme court
  • Is the roadblock movement setting the scene for Le Pen?
  • May’s double bluff is doing the job - for now
  • October 22, 2018
  • A week of intense political tension in the UK
  • Poland's local elections reveal deeply-split country
  • September 19, 2018
  • Attacks weaken legitimacy of spitzenkandidat model
  • A very German farce
  • August 21, 2018
  • Tu felix Austria nube
  • July 23, 2018
  • A Watergate affair for Macron?
  • Irish insist hard border is politically impossible
  • June 25, 2018
  • Trump's car tariff to come early
  • On the lack of a sharp focus in the eurozone debate
  • May 28, 2018
  • A no-confidence motion that could backfire
  • The political repercussions of a historic referendum in Ireland
  • Why the lack of an international role for the euro matters
  • April 30, 2018
  • Looming May protests against Macron
  • France has discovered the Laffer curve
  • An important resignation in the UK
  • April 04, 2018
  • On the SPD’s U-turn on Russia
  • What if the UK had adopted the euro?
  • March 12, 2018
  • German industry is starting to panic about Brexit
  • February 16, 2018
  • How big will the euro budget be?
  • January 25, 2018
  • About political leadership in the 20th century
  • Progress in name dispute talks and new opposition at home
  • About 40% probabilities
  • January 05, 2018
  • Catalonia's government by Skype
  • The case for EEA membership
  • December 11, 2017
  • A new era for the French right
  • Growing scepticism of a grand coalition
  • November 21, 2017
  • A short note on the impact of German political chaos on Brexit
  • A scandal, overshadowed
  • November 03, 2017
  • Catalan separatism is energised again
  • A prime minister without a party
  • Northern Ireland - handle with care
  • The death of liberalism
  • October 18, 2017
  • Veneto and Lombardy to vote on autonomy
  • Portugal's president calls on government over fires
  • Radical ideas for radical times: how to pay off public debt
  • October 02, 2017
  • Catalonia recalls EU and eurozone instability
  • French trade unions increase pressure over labour reforms
  • Watch out for a political accident in the UK
  • Municipal elections boost Portugal's Socialists
  • September 18, 2017
  • Why Germany cannot lead Europe, let alone the free world
  • Will Macron help to build up Mélenchon?
  • Boris' Coup
  • September 04, 2017
  • Dutch referendum: never again?
  • Why trade unions stay quiet on French labour reform
  • August 21, 2017
  • Soft, getting softer
  • Tsipras' chances of a boost
  • On the fallacy of a middle-ground option for the eurozone
  • July 28, 2017
  • German government bans Porsche Cayenne
  • More troubles for the AfD
  • Of course there will be a soft transitional period for the UK
  • July 17, 2017
  • What Tony Blair's Brexit confusion tells us
  • Schulz advocates compulsory investments
  • Italy’s government has effectively lost its majority
  • July 07, 2017
  • Is Emmanuel Macron just another Matteo Renzi?
  • The real obstacles to a Brexit deal
  • Why Nordstream 2 should be delayed
  • On why the G20 won’t solve the main problem
  • June 28, 2017
  • Is gay marriage Merkel’s next refugee problem?
  • June 21, 2017
  • Why has the SPD deflated?
  • Berlusconi’s strategy
  • June 15, 2017
  • The politics of Brexit
  • Assembly this week, senate in September?
  • Romanian government crisis refuses to go away
  • June 09, 2017
  • How about the Italian elections...
  • ...and the French?
  • June 05, 2017
  • What happens to Brexit if Labour wins?
  • What Russia wants
  • June 02, 2017
  • Is this a disaster for European diplomacy?
  • Ethics and politics - French version
  • Expect more European divisiveness
  • On the lessons of a resurgent Labour Party
  • On the limits of an inter-governmental eurozone
  • May 30, 2017
  • Beer tent politics - Merkel edition
  • Brexit arrives in UK elections
  • Rajoy clears budget hurdle
  • May 26, 2017
  • “The Germans are very, very bad”
  • Is the AfD imploding?
  • May 25, 2017
  • The ECB is concerned about eurozone unemployment
  • The eurogroup’s failure to act
  • Some thoughts on UK election math
  • So who is the next most likely US ambassador to the EU?