The International Labour Organization forecast this week that as many as 51 million jobs could be lost worldwide in 2009 due to the global economic crisis. But if I look at some of the numbers hitting my desk this week, even this estimate cound prove to be a conservative one.
Here in the EU, the most striking case is of course Spain, where unemployment hit 14.4% of the labour force in December. But perhaps the more significant developments are taking place at the moment in Germany, where the massive jobs machine evidently changed course in November, and where the seasonally unadjusted number of unemployed rose by 387,000 in December. Perhaps the chart which makes what is now happening in Germany clearest is the one below for employment creation, where we can see that the rate of new employment generation started to decline in the summer, and the line downwards is more or less constant, so while employment was still up year on year in November, it will soon turn negative, and will remain so for some considerable time to come.
In the United States the number of people staying on state jobless benefit rolls after drawing an initial week of aid jumped 159,000 to 4.78 million in the week ended January 17.
In Russia 800,000 people lost their jobs in December, and the total number of unemployed hit 5.8 million people, as compared with 5 million in November. But all of this pales in comparison with the number which has just come out of India, where it is now estimated that one million people lost their jobs in December alone.
So, while I have no exact idea of what the total job loss in December was globally, I am sure it was a large number, and I am also sure that if things continue at this pace, 51 million losses over the whole of 2009 will turn out to have been an optimistic estimate. The point is, of course, that these job losses are simply a noose which serves to further tighten the grip of the global recession, as less workers means less spending, and less spending means even less workers, and down and down we go in circular fashion, for the time being at least.
Indeed the 51 million estimate for the whole of 2009 is already looking on the low side. Chen Xiwen, director of the Office of Central Rural Work Leading Group estimated this week that more than 20m rural migrant workers in China have already lost their jobs and returned to their home villages or towns as a result of the global economic crisis, and by the start of the Chinese new year festival on January 25, 15.3 per cent of Chinaâ€™s 130m migrant workers had lost their jobs and left coastal manufacturing centres to return home, according to data from the agriculture ministry survey.