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Degrowth, Deep adaptation and MMT – Part 3

This is the third part in a on-going series that I am writing about Deep Adaptation, Degrowth and related concepts, all of which are designed to provide some sort of pathway beyond the current mess that the world is in with respect to climate, inequality, poverty, excessive consumption, and excessive population growth. Today, I consider how Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) fits into the transition agenda and discuss the labour market dislocation that will accompany the transition to degrowth.

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Musicians should be paid at least a socially inclusive minimum living wage

It’s Wednesday and I am now ensconced in Kyoto, Japan for the months ahead. I will report on various aspects of that experience as time passes. Today, I reflect on a debate that is going on in Australia about the situation facing live musicians. Should promoters be able to employ them for poverty wages including ‘nothing’ while still profiting or should they be forced to pay the musicians a living wage. You can guess where I sit in the debate.

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Australian labour market – slight improvement in the situation despite rise in unemployment

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released of the latest labour force data today (August 18, 2022) – Labour Force, Australia – for August 2022. WThe labour market improved slightly in August 2022 with employment and participation both increasing, but this was just reversing the joint decreases in July. The rise in the official unemployment rate from 3.4 to 3.5 per cent was due to the rise in the participation rate, which meant the modest employment growth could not absorb all the new entrants to the labour force. The underlying (‘What-if’) unemployment rate is closer to 6 per cent rather than the official rate of 3.5 per cent. There are still 1,320.4 thousand Australian workers without work in one way or another (officially unemployed or underemployed). The only reason the unemployment rate is so low is because the underlying population growth remains low after the border closures over the last two years. But that is changing as immigration increases. Overall, the situation improved a bit over August.

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US labour market showing further signs of slowdown

Last Friday (September 3, 2022), the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their latest labour market data – Employment Situation Summary – September 2022 – which reported a total payroll employment rise of only 315,000 jobs (a major slowdown) and an official unemployment rate rose 0.2 points to 3.7 per cent. The participation rate also rose (somewhat reversing last month’s decline) and the broad labour underutilisation rate (U6) rose by 0.3 points, largely due to the rise in unemployment. The other interesting aspect of this data is that real wages continued to decline in all industry sectors – they have systematically fallen each month since March 2022. I note some commentators are trying to claim that wage pressures are now pushing inflation. That conclusion is untenable given the data. The US labour market is still producing employment but it is hardly booming. Further, most of the net jobs created since the pandemic have gone to workers in occupatinos that pay above-median earnings.

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Australian labour market deteriorating as employment and participation contract

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released of the latest labour force data today (August 18, 2022) – Labour Force, Australia – for July 2022. With Covid infection rates rising quickly, and already around 780,000 workers working few hours than usual because of sickness, I predicted last month that there would be a deterioration in the labour market in the coming months. That trend emerged in July 2022. The labour market deteriorated in July 2022 with employment and participation both contracting. While the official unemployment rate fell to 3.4 per cent this was all down to the decline in participation. Had the participation rate not declined the unemployment rate would have risen from 3.6 per cent to 3.9 per cent. Further, the underlying (‘What-if’) unemployment rate is closer to 6.1 per cent rather than the official rate of 3.4 per cent. There are still 1313.7 thousand Australian workers without work in one way or another (officially unemployed or underemployed). The only reason the unemployment rate is so low is because the underlying population growth remains low after the border closures over the last two years. Overall, the situation worsened over July.

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US Labour Market – creating work but participation and real wages falling

Last Friday (August 5, 2022), the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their latest labour market data – Employment Situation Summary – July 2022 – which reported a total payroll employment rise of only 528,000 jobs and an official unemployment rate of 3.5 per cent. Many commentators immediately claimed that the labour market was tightening as a result of the decline in the official unemployment rate, but that was all down to a decline in the participation rate – less people looking for work – which is a sure sign that job opportunities are becoming harder to access. When the hires data comes out soon, we will be able to be more definitive on that. The other interesting aspect of this data is that real wages continued to decline in all industry sectors – they have systematically fallen each month since March 2022. I note some commentators are trying to claim that wage pressures are now pushing inflation. That conclusion is untenable given the data. The US labour market is still producing employment but it is hardly booming.

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We should celebrate the ‘work from home’ phenomenon

We will have Wednesday on a Thursday this week, given my detailed analysis of Australia’s inflation data release yesterday. So today I write less here to write more elsewhere and finish with some of the greatest guitar playing you might ever hope to hear. My topic today is the issue of the ‘work from home’ phenomenon, which is one of the better things Covid has produced. I explain why. But I also realise a lot of commentators view the phenomenon negatively. Some on the Left allege it just means the ‘woke’ class have abandoned the low-paid workers to Covid, while those on the Right are aghast because they realise that, at least, some workers have more ‘control’ over their working lives. My view is that we should celebrate the fact that some workers are happier. I don’t accept the argument from the ‘Left’ commentators that every worker should be miserable if every worker cannot be happier.

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Australian labour market continues to improve but there are warning signs

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released of the latest labour force data today (July 14, 2022) – Labour Force, Australia – for June 2022. The labour market improved in June following up the gains in May after several months of weakness. The robust full-time employment growth was a good sign as was the increasing participation rate. That particularly favoured the younger workers. The official unemployment rate fell to levels not seen since 1974 but the underlying (‘What-if’) unemployment rate is closer to 5.7 per cent rather than the official rate of 3.5 per cent. Underemployment rose sharply however and while unemployment fell by 54,300, those in part-time work who desired more hours rose by 49,700. In other words, the jobs growth was biased towards the lower end of the hours distribution. There are still 1350.9 thousand Australian workers without work in one way or another (officially unemployed or underemployed). The only reason the unemployment rate is so low is because the underlying population growth remains low after the border closures over the last two years. With Covid infection rates rising quickly, and already around 780,000 workers working few hours than usual because of sickness, stay tuned for a deterioration in the labour market in the coming months.

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First signs of a slowdown in the US labour market

Last Friday (July 8, 2022), the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their latest labour market data – Employment Situation Summary – June 2022 – which reported a total payroll employment rise of only 372,000 jobs and an official unemployment rate of 3.6 per cent. While it might seem that the June and May results were steady as she goes, the reality is that the June figures reveal the first signs of a slowdown in the US labour market. The labour survey employment measure fell as did the participation rate. There was a fall in the employment-population ratio, a fairly reliable measure that the demand-side is lagging behind the supply-side. The US labour market is still 524 thousand payroll jobs short from where it was at the end of May 2020, which helps to explain why there are no wage pressures emerging. Real wages continued to decline as the supply disruptions and the greed of increased corporate profit margin push sustain the inflationary pressures. Any analyst who is claiming the US economy is close to full employment hasn’t looked at the data. The justification by the US Federal Reserve for pushing up interest rates to quell wages pressure does not stack up with the evidence.

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Who would be so stupid to advocate deliberately putting 2.3 million workers out of work? Guess who?

It’s Wednesday and I am pushed for time today. My local community is in the last stages of trying to stop a massive overdevelopment in our midst, which will damage the social cohesion and environmental amenity in our neighbourhood, while delivering massive profits to a greedy property developer. I have to appear before a tribunal today to document the impacts of the development on these things. Property developers are the scourge. So are mainstream economists like Larry Summers who is proposing that unemployment be deliberately increased by more than 2.3 million and held at that level or higher for years in order to reduce the current (transitory) inflation. Who would be so stupid? And after getting really mad about that and Keir Starmer’s abandonment of working class representation, we can soothe our souls with some Roy Elridge.

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