The stock markets are not doing so bad, Quantitative Easing is naturally pushing paper valuations higher, so far so normal… But no real wealth effect has been generated, consumers are not returning, and we're hardly seeing the end of the crisis. A jobless recovery leads to fewer consumers (as savings and social entitlements vanish), which leads to keep pushing hard for productivity gains, which keeps leading to further job losses and a vicious circle. Jobless is unstable, because it structurally spirals down. But why is this recovery jobless?

As previously mentioned, robots will more and more take the productive jobs… As long as a company finds consumers, this sounds like a good idea. However, the collective result mostly leads to no one having a job, hence no consumer. We can naturally re-direct our economy towards some new production (but robots will still take over most productive jobs, even in solar panels or other green technologies); we can continue toward the economy of information (incl. innovation); but such economies will not require as many producers as consumers. A focus on fair education would help, as would a proper valuation and wealth distribution mechanism in relation to value from networks. And, ultimately, some heavy-handed redistribution mechanism will also be needed to make it work.

But why does it seem fundamentally impossible to kick (paper) growth back on track (despite central banks printing money)?

Let's venture an explanation: the growth of the twentieth century was destined to be short-lived!

Growth in relation to resource exploitation is limited by the resource. Growth in relation to tourism is limited by our desire not to give people more 'un-productive' time (Capitalist societies refuse to share: they limit the holidays of the employed, and the social safety net for the unemployed isn't funding many holidays). Growth in the entertainment industry (not judging the quality of the production) is again limited by the free time available: we are unlikely to watch 10 films simultaneously. Growth in the health industry is somehow self-limiting, as improvement in health reduces the need for the health industry! Of course, later-ageing is still ageing, and more people living longer means there are pockets of growth, but they are structurally limited by the population growth and the population's wealth. Sacking people from other industries typically doesn't help the growth of the health industry…

Now, what are all politicians promising recently? The return of production jobs and factory jobs. OK, so robots make this unlikely but there is a more serious reason why this won't work.

Our productive industry has lived on artificially-high growth, based on behavioural changes. A century or so ago, the usual household was composed of multiple generations of one family. Resources were shared and used rather efficiently. Selling the dream of independence to people and letting solidarity wither, households were individualised: each generation needed their own house! And with less resources pooled, they also needed extra services: nurseries, cleaners, etc. A fridge or radio or TV set were now needed 'per generation' rather than 'per family'… Selling the dream of independence to people further, and allowing solidarity to wither further, mono-parental households became frequent. Then kids themselves became so independent they needed their own TV… Basically, under the name of "liberation" and "freedom" and "empowerment," there was a gigantic marketing operation, of which the purpose was to individualise everything: less sharing meant more duplication hence more sales.

But once people have a TV in each room, and each person has his/her own TV and computer and phone, each adult and student has his/her own home with his/her exclusive bathroom, oven, dining table and dining set, and tools and clothes that could be shared but are not… How do we individualise further? We cannot.

Growth is still possible with population growth (and no, growth is not really available by selling to the Chinese or other populations with comfort levels not yet matching the american standards because… to be consumers, they need jobs themselves!). Growth is still possible with faster and faster planned obsolescence (possibly based purely on marketing: iPhone5 bought en masse by iPhone4S owners?).

So, growth is still possible. But the artificially-high growth based on individualisation is basically coming to an end. This is very important, because artificially-high growth could not be covered by gains in productivity alone. So jobs were growing too, alongside the population growth and the individualisation! But if growth becomes more muted, productivity gains might become enough to cover the needs. We will not hire people but keep firing them!

There is a bit of leg room in BRIC economies (who will need to buy from even-cheaper providers…) but this is essentially coming to an end too, because we allowed extreme accumulation of wealth at the top. We allowed the money to stop circulating but, in order to maintain a healthy economy, we need a circulation of goods, services, persons and wealth.

In the long-run, jobless is the future. Wealth redistribution has to be addressed differently, for such a jobless trend not to lead to unmanageable social unrest.