AT THE end of each summer Italian business leaders, politicians and journalists mingle with foreign guests at the Ambrosetti Forum in the Villa d’Este by the shores of the lovely Lake Como. This year, the breezes off the lake carried something not scented in almost a decade: a whiff of optimism about the Italian economy.
GDP in the second quarter was up by an annual 1.5%, and on September 5th the government’s statisticians said that leading indicators pointed to “a reinforcement of the prospects for growth”. The previous week, they had sounded a less positive note, reporting that the unemployment rate had risen from 11.2% in June to 11.3% in July. But even that held a kernel of promise. The unemployment rate measures the proportion of jobseekers out of work, and in July some 115,000 Italians became jobseekers. Not all found jobs, which is why the unemployment rate went up. But those who did pushed the total number in work to more than 23m for the first time since 2008….