A point in favour
Things could be worse. With so much of the week spent digesting bad news about the economy and the public finances, I thought I'd end it with some reasons to be cheerful.
The first is that, all things considered, UK plc has come out of the past year rather better than you might have expected. Outside the banking and energy sectors, corporate profits have fallen by far less than in either of the past two recessions.
Non-financial corporate profits have now fallen by 7.5% from their peak. That's roughly the fall we saw in 2001-2, despite a recession we now know to have been on a par with the early 80s, and twice as bad as 1990-1992. In the early 80s recession, the total fall in non-financial corporate profits was 23%. In the early 90s, it was 11%.
This recession isn't over yet. Profits may yet fall further. But clearly, something has gone right this time. And that something appears to be the labour market.
As Jamie Dannhauser, of Lombard Street Research, points out in his latest UK report, the greater flexibility of the labour market seems to have made it possible for firms to squeeze labour costs over the past year, without laying so many workers off.
All those "voluntary" pay cuts or wage freezes, reductions in hours, and slashing of bonuses (this is outside the financial sector, remember) means that total labour costs per worker have actually fallen by 1.2% in the past year.
That's quite remarkable. We think of the US having the most flexible labour market - and companies there have also fared less badly in profit terms than in past recessions. But even there, labour costs per worker are still going up.
One year into the last recession, costs per private sector worker in the UK were still growing at 10%, which ultimately led companies to shed 7% of the private sector workforce to rebuild profits.
Of course, you may not care what has happened to corporate profits (even though you probably should). But we can all be cheered if greater flexibility has meant fewer people losing their jobs.
Unemployment has risen by 1.9 percentage points since the recession began, to 7.2%, and we know that it will rise further. That is a big rise. But the scale of the decline in national output during this period would have led you to expect a lot worse.
We saw a similar increase in the first year of the last recession, when the decline in GDP was only half as great (at this stage in the last recession, the unemployment rate stood at 8.7%).
Yes, there are plenty of caveats about who is included in that headline figure, and who is not. But even with all the caveats, a given percentage point decline in GDP seems to be translating into a smaller number of jobs lost.
As I said at the start, there's much that's going badly in this economy - and plenty of room for more bad news in the future. But at least some things appear to be going better than they have in the past.