LONDON (Reuters) - Bank of England interest-rate setter Jonathan Haskel said he was worried that Britain’s economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis could be slow and it would depend heavily on whether people felt confident that it was safe to go out.
Haskel, who backed the BoE’s latest 100 billion-pound expansion of asset purchases last month, also warned that unemployment had the potential to be worse than during the 2008-09 financial crisis.
“I am concerned about the economy ‘getting stuck’ and recovering only slowly and undershooting the inflation target,” he said in a speech hosted by Imperial College Business School on Thursday.
Haskel’s emphasis on barriers to recovery contrast with the recent focus of the BoE’s chief economist, Andy Haldane, who has pointed to indicators showing a rapid initial rebound.
British consumers appeared less willing to spend money at pubs and restaurants than people in other countries, Haskel said, citing Google search data which he said showed a correlation between a premature lifting of lockdown restrictions and greater consumer nervousness.
“The path of recovery crucially depends therefore on the fear of infection, which in turn depends on the mix of public (e.g. track and trace) and private (e.g. screens in shops) health measures undertaken,” he said in his speech.
Higher unemployment was also likely to prove a barrier to the recovery, Haskel added.
“Weak activity and capacity constraints on the operation of surviving businesses, and insolvencies, translate into a fall in the demand for labour,” he said.
Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by William Schomberg