Today’s Australian Bureau of Statistics – Australian National Accounts – for the June-quarter 2013, shows that real GDP growth was 0.6 per cent, up slightly from the revised 0.5 per cent for the March-quarter 2013 (previously published at 0.6 per cent). The annualised growth rate of 2.6 per cent is now well below the trend rate between 2000 and 2008 and there is now a 4.3 per cent gap between actual growth and trend. This will widen in coming quarters and it is the reason the unemployment rate is rising. Overall, the data paints a fairly gloomy overall picture for the Australian economy. Gloomy without being disastrous. However, if the new federal government (after Saturday) start hacking into public spending to flex their conservative muscles then the outlook will shift very quickly from gloomy to disastrous and we will follow Europe down the sink hole.
Today’s Australian Bureau of Statistics – Australian National Accounts – for the March-quarter 2013, shows that real GDP growth was 0.6 per cent, unchanged from the Dcember-quarter 2012. The annualised growth rate of 2.4 per cent is now well below the trend rate between 2000 and 2008 and there is now a 4.2 per cent gap between actual growth and trend. This will widen in coming quarters and it is the reason the unemployment rate is rising. The stunning reversal of fortunes in the leading mining state of Western Australia is a feature of today’s data release. It is now in recession. The strong mining states (WA, NT) are now converging on the poorly performed East Coast economies. Much is being made of the contribution of Net exports (1 percentage point) but most of that (0.7 points) arose from a decline in imports as a result of the collapse in capital goods investment (mining related). Public Investment also dragged growth by 0.9 percentage points indicating that fiscal austerity is a major reason for the output gap. Overall, the outlook is decidedly ugly.
The Australian economy grew in trend terms by 1 per cent in the December-quarter 2011, 0.9 per cent in the March-quarter 2012, 0.8 per cent in the June-quarter 2012, 0.7 per cent in the September-quarter 2012, and in today’s Australian Bureau of Statistics – Australian National Accounts – data covering the December-quarter 2012, the real GDP growth figure was 0.6 per cent. Further, the two main growth drivers in the December-quarter – Net exports (0.6 percentage points) and Public Investment (1.1 percentage points) – will not endure. Outlook: poor. But the irony is that while the Federal government is doing its best to undermine the economy by imposing fiscal austerity, it was the public corporations at the State/Local government level that provided the public capital infrastructure boost. Without this government spending support, the Australian economy would be in a deepening recession! I wonder what those who say that public spending undermines growth would say today! Gravity denial would be out in full force. I will keep my ears peeled and report back on the more ingenious contributions. While the spin is that the economy grew at 3 per cent over 2012, which is true, the forward-looking assessment is that the national growth rate is running around 2 to 2.5 per cent and falling, which is already well below trend. Employment growth was flat and real net national disposable income fell sharply in the December-quarter. The terms of trade, which has been helping to drive growth in the external sector also fell sharply. The State and Territory Final Demand data also shows that the East Coast and South Australia area, where the vast majority of the population lives and seeks work is now in recession. The outlook is decidedly negative.
In my assessment of the June-quarter 2012 National Accounts data the title indicated my assessment of where the economy was heading – Australian real GDP growth weakens and there is worse to come. Well, the worse to come came today with the release by the Australian Bureau of Statistics of the – Australian National Accounts – for the September 2012 quarter. The Australian economy continued to decline in the September-quarter and the trend is firmly down. The latest data available suggests that the slowdown in September (now officially revealed) has accelerated into the December-quarter, which is consistent with the trend shown in today’s data release. Today’s data release is now revealing for the first time the damaging impact of the fiscal austerity that the Government is pursuing. The government contribution to real GDP growth in the September-quarter was -0.5 percentage points, which totally nullified the positive contribution from private investment. A reasonable assessment is that the national growth rate is running around 2 to 2.5 per cent and falling, which is already well below trend. Employment and real net national disposable income are falling and the outlook is decidedly negative. As the former governor of the RBA said yesterday – fiscal policy is “just plain dumb” at present.
When the March-quarter National Accounts data came out it showed very strong growth which seemed to run counter to the other indicators that were available at the relevant time. My blog – Australian national accounts – strong growth creates a puzzle – focused on the conflict between the poor employment growth and the strong GDP growth. Today – the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the – Australian National Accounts – for the June 2012 quarter and the results make much more sense. The Australian economy slowed in the June quarter and the growth performance was more consistent with the other indicators that we have at our disposable. The latest data available suggests that the slowdown in June has accelerated into the third-quarter but we will have to wait until December to verify that claim. Today’s data release also continues to demonstrate the growth impact of on-going budget deficits even if the Federal Government is doing what it can to undermine that contribution. Without the public sector contribution to real GDP growth, the overall outlook would look very weak.
Today, I present a series of vignettes that traverse a range of related topics. How Australia’s richest person thinks that billionaires work hard and create jobs and wealth and the poor … well drink and smoke a lot while socialising. Then we consider today’s investment data for Australia which is a precursor to the June-quarter national accounts release. We try to make sense of claims that Australia’s (alleged) socialist government has killed investment in mining. Then we consider how leading economic forecasters mislead the Australian public by claiming that the Australian government will not have enough money to provide dental care to the poor. Then we hop over to America and learn that government spending creates jobs and even the conservatives are saying it. All in a day’s blogging. A veritable pot pourri of lies, deception and self-serving bluster.
The ABS released the – Australian National Accounts – today for the March 2012 quarter and the results have stunned all commentators including yours truly. Last quarter, the real GDP growth rate had slumped to 0.6 per cent (this was revised upwards from 0.4 per cent). But in the March 2012 quarter the Australian economy grew by a staggering (fast) 1.3 per cent – driven by both private consumption and private investment are driving growth. For the year, the Australian economy grew by 4.3 per cent which when compared to trend (around 3.25 per cent) suggests a boom. But over the same quarter, employment growth fell by 0.7 per cent and full-time employment fell by 0.2 per cent. That dislocation is very puzzling. There appears to be a divergence occurring between our real output performance and our labour market performance. More analysis is required to fully understand that divergence. Clearly, the data is also indicating that growth can be unbalanced (concentrated in space and particular sectors) which poses policy challenges. For now though, the real GDP growth estimates are good. It is likely we have seen the peak of the investment cycle though (as China slows) and that will have implications for income growth, and, hence, household consumption growth.
Today the ABS released the Australian National Accounts – for the December 2011 quarter which shows that the quarterly real GDP growth rate was 0.4 per cent, down from 0.8 per cent in the September quarter. For the year, the Australian economy grew by 2.3 per cent down which when compared to trend (around 3.25 per cent) reveals how sluggish our recovery after the crisis has been. The worrying sign is that private business investment contracted and offset the growth coming from household consumption, net exports and inventory building. Growth is also being held back by the Government’s obsessive pursuit of a budget surplus in the coming fiscal year. The fiscal drag is damaging output and employment prospects and dampening expectations in the private sector. The growth rate is not strong enough to make a dent in the unemployment and underemployment ranks. The case for continued government support for higher growth remains especially with inflation now falling.
As Summer struggles to makes it appearance on the East Coast (coldest start for something like 40 odd years) the ABS released the Australian National Accounts – for the September 2011 quarter came out today and showed that the Australian economy grew by 1 per cent in the quarter down from the strong 1.2 per cent in June. In real terms, the economy grew 2.5 per cent over the last 12 months which is a good result considering that the March quarter contraction of 0.9 per cent. There are several competing forces contributing to this result. The growth is being driven by private capital formation and household consumption but being dragged down by net exports, harsh government austerity and the run down in inventories, the latter suggesting firms are losing confidence in the immediate outlook. If the private investment boom continues then growth for the foreseeable future should be maintained and approach trend. I would note that the recent (pre-crisis) trend growth was insufficient to mop up both the residual unemployment and the rising underemployment. The case for continued government support for higher growth remains especially with inflation now falling.
A lot of readers write in asking what about external balances – what they mean etc. They are also sometimes puzzled why I say that the external sector in Australia is currently (and typically) draining real growth in the economy when at the same time they read that the terms of trade are at record levels and that we are in the midst of a “once-in-a-hundred-years” mining boom which is reshaping our economy. So today’s release by the ABS of the latest (September quarter 2011) – Balance of Payments and International Investment Position, Australia – provides me with a platform for a brief (I promise) explanation of these concepts and how they might be interpreted from a Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) perspective. The bottom line is that for Australia, our external sector continues to drain growth.