Is this the happiest we’ve been since 2008?

Julian Harris
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Economists aren’t great at measuring happiness – or a lack thereof – no matter how hard they work on complex methodologies in a bid to record our levels of contentment.

But one of the more simple, and therefore arguably powerful, measures has long been known as the Misery Index. It’s simple – high unemployment and high inflation makes for a miserable population.

The aftermath of the global economic slump has caused the index to spike, yet one economist – George Buckley of Deutsche Bank – says it is now at its lowest rate in six years.

In other words (my words, admittedly) we are now happier than we’ve been since 2008. Buckley uses the claimant count rate in his calculations, which produces the graph below:

With today’s upbeat labour market news, the misery rate is now five per cent on Buckley’s measure – under half the level it reached in September 2011. The last time it was lower was in March 2008.

Using the more traditional measure – which uses the unemployment rate, rather than the claimant count rate – the UK’s misery reading is at 8.5 per cent, still markedly down on recent years in which it surpassed 13 per cent.

Yet we still have some way to go to be top dogs in Europe. Those happy Germans have a jobless rate of 6.7 per cent and annual inflation of one per cent, producing a misery rating of just 7.7 per cent.

Something to aim for, ja?