WASHINGTON – If you really, really insist on finding the proverbial “silver lining” in rather depressing news, here is a headline for you. We find it in the Italian daily La Repubblica, as the title for a recent story about unemployment in Italy: “Work, confidence returns, inactive people numbers are down”.
Things looking better?
Well, with such a promising headline you would expect to read that Italy has turned, or is turning, a corner. You would expect to read that hiring is more robust, and tragically high unemployment is finally going down.
No. Nothing of this sort. We read instead that “Within an increase in overall unemployment [12.4% in July 2015] Istat [National Statistics Institute] reads positive signals that indicate a recovery. What moves the scale are inactive workers (those who do not have a job and who are not seeking one). Their number is down by 1.1%, to under 14 million. The ranks of the discouraged are also down, (-114,000 in one year), especially in the South, among young people aged between 15 and 34. On the other hand there are more people who are inactive (+77,000) because they are pursuing some kind of education.”
Bad news is good news
Got the picture? The number of the chronically unemployed is now just a bit under 14 million, because there has been a 1.1% decrease. This clearly means that things are looking really positive.
Well, it takes a really heroic level of optimism to say that “confidence is back” in a country with 12.4% unemployment, and 14 million of long term unemployed. (By the way, the unemployment rate is 44% for young people. It used to be 28% in 2011). Italy looks bad even compared to the still uninspiring unemployment rate within the rest of the Eurozone: 10.9%.
No sense of reality?
So, why do main stream media like La Repubblica try to disguise an ongoing national tragedy into a “confidence returns” story?
Have they lost any connection with reality? Or, in truth, in this new world of drastically diminished expectations, a 1.1% decrease among the long term unemployed, within a context of massive unemployment, is in fact good news?
This story exemplifies “decline”
This being the case, I would take this news story about unemployment as a clear example that describes what “decline” is:
You are in it, and you do not even know it.
You are so used to a “New Normal” of a worsening economy, and lower standards of living, that you forgot how things should be.
From this perspective of diminished expectations, a story that at the very best could be construed as a faint ray of hope is indeed good news.