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Australia National Accounts – growth moderates but wage share falls below 50 per cent

The Australian Bureau of Statistics released the latest – Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product, March 2022 – today (June 1, 2022), which shows that the Australian economy grew by 0.8 per cent in the March-quarter 2022 and by 3.3 per cent over the 12 months to the end of March 2022 – a decline in the growth rate. Nominal GDP grew by 10.2 per cent over the year and the change in the GDP price index (a measure of inflation) was 8.2 per cent. The data tells us that after the initial rebound from the lockdowns, growth moderated in the March-quarter and was driven by domestic demand – household consumption, government spending and inventory accumulation. The external sector undermined growth even though the terms of trade boomed. Productivity growth was strong but note working hours fell. The productivity growth provided scope for non-inflationary real wage rises. The problem is that business are pocketing these productivity gains as profits. That needs to stop and the government should do something about it. The wage share fell below 50 per cent which is a shocking testimony of the way the wages system is penalising workers.

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Australia – business capital expenditure declines in March-quarter but outlook remains positive

The Australian Bureau of Statistics released the latest version of – Private New Capital Expenditure and Expected Expenditure, Australia – today (May 26, 2022), which is part of several releases leading up to the publication of the March-quarter National Accounts next Wednesday. Today’s business investment data shouws that private new capital expenditure in Australia fell by 0.3 per cent in the March quarter but was up by 4.5 per cent on the year. With the uncertainty continuing about the extent and duration of the current supply-side disruptions, the decline in business investment was, in fact, modest. And the expected investment plans signal that there is still no sense of crisis among those responsible for capital expenditure. One of the challenges facing the new Federal government is to maintain optimism in the economy in order to avoid the current-quarter decline in business investment becoming consolidated. If the new Treasurer keeps harping on about the $A1 trillion debt and the need to cut the fiscal deficit, they will fail that challenge and business will get spooked and we will head towards recession with on-going inflationary pressures.

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Australian national accounts – growth rebound

Today (March 2, 2022), the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the latest – Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product, December 2021 – which shows that the Australian economy reversed the contraction in the September-quarter 2021 and posted an annual growth rate of 4.2 per cent. Covid lockdowns and restrictions caused the contraction and their abandonment allowed for growth to return. Growth was driven by strong growth in household consumption expenditure as public fiscal support declined and private investment expenditure went backwards. The change in the terms of trade was negative reflecting the rising import prices as supply constraints continue and demand rises. Overall, a good result but the next quarter will be much less robust (floods etc).

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Central banks are resisting the inflation panic hype from the financial markets – and we are better off as a result

Regular readers will know that I think the current inflationary phenomenon is transitory. They will also know that I see the continual claims by financial market economists that central banks have to increase interest rates now to avoid an accelerating inflationary episode as having little economic content and lots of self interest content. If rates go up, they win their bets and the more they can bully authorities to do their bidding the more certain their bets become profitable. I am glad that central banks around the world are resisting that game of bluff. In previous periods, they have not resisted and have handed the financial speculators (the top-end-of-town) massive and unjustified profits and forced millions of workers to endure joblessness. It is also interesting that the mainstream press is starting to work that out too. Some progress.

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Australian economy contracts and workers national income share declines further

Today (December 1, 2021), the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the latest – Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product, September 2021 – which shows that the Australian economy contracted 1.9 per cent in the September-quarter. The annual growth rate of 3.9 per cent is relatively meaningless given the base was severely affected by the lockdowns last year. The decline in economic activity was driven by private demand, which contracted by 2.4 percentage points – mostly due to a decline in household final consumption expenditure. Public spending contributed 0.7 points to the GDP figure thus attenuating, to some extent, the fall in private demand. The increase in spending on health by both Federal and State governments was not large enough to avoid the contraction though. Real net national disposable income fell by 3.8 per cent, but rose by 7.8 per cent over the year. GDP per capita fell by 2 per cent in the September-quarter. There was a massive boost in the household saving ratio (from 11.8 per cent to 19.8 per cent) as a result of the tight lockdowns in Victoria and NSW during this period as a result of the renewed fiscal support. We will have to see how the rebound is next quarter now that the restrictions have been significantly eased. The most worrying thing about the data today is that the wage share in national income slumped further while the profit share in a smaller pie rose. Something needs to be done about that.

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Corporate profits boom in Australia undermines our capacity to national prosperity and well-being

Yesterday (November 29, 2021), the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the latest – Business Indicators – for the September-quarter 2021. This dataset provides quarterly estimates of private sector sales, wages, profits and inventories. It provides a means of viewing exactly what has gone wrong with the Australian economy over the last two decades as successive governments have failed to prioritise general well-being, and, have instead, acted as agents of capital. There is a massive imbalance in the capacity of workers and profit-recipients to access national income that is produced by the workers. Profits have been booming while wages growth has been low for a long time now. And if you thought the booming profits would be siphoned into productive investment to lift productivity and create the non-inflationary space for real wage increases, then you would be wrong. The massive lift in profits has gone into unjustifiable increases in executive pay, property booms and financial market speculation. None of the things that help lift national prosperity and well-being.

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Australian national accounts – growth 3 months ago but no guide to current situation

Time series data is somewhat difficult to use at present because of the dramatic impact the pandemic (and the lockdowns) has had on behaviour. It is difficult to conduct precise statistical work that spans this period and in the future, econometricians like me will have to use special techniques to isolate these observations if we are to get anything meaningful from the data over longer horizons into the future. National accounts data is also fraught at the best of times because of the lags in collection and publication. It tells us where we were three months ago and three months before that. So while today’s data release from the Australian Bureau of Statistics of the – Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product, June 2021 (released September 1, 2021) – shows that the Australian economy grew by 0.7 per cent in the March-quarter after growing by 1.9 per cent in the March-quarter 2021. The annual growth rate of 9.6 per cent is relatively meaningless given the base effect noted above. Household consumption growth is positive but subdued. Business investment while positive has tapered somewhat. The external sector undermined growth as exports fell sharply. The public sector contributed 0.7 points to growth, which means that without that fiscal support (at both federal and state level), there would have been zero growth. With the NSW and Victorian economies now enduring a long lockdowns the next quarter will record negative growth and there is clearly a need for increased fiscal support.

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Australian economy now slightly above the March 2020 level as growth continues

The data release from the Australian Bureau of Statistics of the – Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product, March 2021 (released June 2, 2021) – shows that the Australian economy grew by a healthy 1.8 per cent in the March-quarter after growing by 3.2 per cent in the December-quarter 2020. Further, the economy is now 1.1 per cent larger than it was at the outset of the pandemic in March 2020. Household consumption growth is positive but subdued. Fiscal support is declining. But business investment is now recovering and is a really positive sign. Several sectors are still struggling and renewed outbreaks of the virus in recent weeks will further create these disparities. I consider there is still need for expanded fiscal support.

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Australian national accounts – second quarter of strong growth but still below where economy was a year ago

Coming off a low base. That is how to view the latest data release from the Australian Bureau of Statistics of the – Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product, December 2020 (released March 3, 2020). It shows that the Australian economy grew by 3.1 per cent in the December-quarter after growing by 3.4 per cent in the September-quarter. But the economy is still 1.1 per cent smaller than it was this time last year. The other thing to take from the data is that it once again confirms that nations that took the virus elimination strategy have done the best in economic terms compared to those nation which resisted tight lockdowns and other restrictions and are still enduring high infection rates and stalled economies. Household Consumption expenditure rose strongly as opportunities to spend increased and disposable income recovered somewhat. How long this considerable rebound can continue is another question. With the government fiscal support due to end soon and the base now higher, the coming quarters will not be as robust. And remember that the economy is still 1.1 per cent smaller and the labour market is still struggling and the Government’s fiscal support will still be required in certain sectors, which are still unable to achieve recovery (arts, tourism).

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Is the $US900 billion stimulus in the US likely to overheat the economy – Part 2?

The answer to the question posed in the title is No! Lawrence Summers’ macroeconomic assessment does not stack up. In – Is the $US900 billion stimulus in the US likely to overheat the economy – Part 1? (December 30, 2020) – I developed the framework for considering whether it was sensible for the US government to provide a $US2,000 once-off, means-tested payment as part of its latest fiscal stimulus. Summers was opposed to it claiming that it would push the economy into an inflationary spiral because it would more than close the current output gap. Today, I do the numbers. The conclusion is that there is more than enough scope for the Government to make the transfers without running out of fiscal space.

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