The Guardian view on Covid economics: worry about jobs, not the deficit

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It is mad to be concerned about levels of government debt when so many people’s livelihoods and wellbeing are at stake

Last November, the Office for Budget Responsibility’s worst-case scenario figured that the double whammy of a lingering pandemic and a no-deal Brexit would see 4.2 million people out of work by 2022. The good news is that Britain clinched a deal with the EU before it left its regulatory orbit. The bad news is that the OBR’s worst-case scenario almost certainly underestimates the scale of the jobs crisis. Ministers have wilfully shut their eyes to the facts, clutching at the straws of dodgy statistics and inadequate policy responses.

We ignore the obvious at our peril. A report by the Alliance for Full Employment, a cross-party coalition of politicians, charities, trade unions and faith leaders, reckons that within months at least one in 10 workers (about four million people) will be without work. Government ministers may latch on to the fact that Gordon Brown is the report’s messenger and train their fire on the former Labour prime minister. But they would do better to deal with its message.

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