Here’s my controversial argument of the day.
New Labour spent a lot of money on infrastructure, education and healthcare. Lots of money, I think we can all agree on that. A lot of people think a lot of this money was wasted. Some also think Labour damaged the productive part of our economy by burdening it with too much red tape and taxation.
But UK’s unemployment is currently lower than you would expect given a nasty, steep recession. Perhaps some of New Labour’s spending is having measurable effect in reducing the non-inflationary level of unemployment, even if we couldn’t work out was while they were in office what was Labour’s return on investment.
Despite extra burdens on employers introduced by New Labour we still have a very flexible employment market. This is especially true for the young and the newly employed. The National Minimum Wage is lower for the young and those in a job for under a year have few employment rights.
If you strip out VAT and import prices (that is, if you cheat a bit but for easily rationalisable reasons) inflation has been rather low of late. Compared to the normal employment/output dynamic unemployment has also been low.
This leads me to argue that the UK may have seen some sort of positive supply shock in the late 2000s which has improved our unemployment rate today. If true this would mean that the natural rate of unemployment has decreased and the cyclical component is higher than most people realise.
EDIT 19:05 11/05/2012: Second paragraph edited. Unemployment no longer “very” low just “lower than you would expect.”