Last Friday (May 6, 2022), the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their latest labour market data – Employment Situation Summary – April 2022 – which reported a total payroll employment rise of only 428,000 jobs and an official unemployment rate of 3.6 per cent. However, the Labour Force survey provided the opposite impression with employment and the participation rate falling. It is difficult at this stage to reconcile the two messages except to say that the US labour market has probably reached an inflection point and a deterioration is emerging as the Federal Reserve continues to hike interest rates. The US labour market is still 1,190 thousand payroll jobs short from where it was at the end of April 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.
Apparently, the Left/Right Paradigm is dead. This narrative keeps coming back. In the 1980s, when governments, coopted by corporate lobby groups, went on a privatisation spree, which transferred billions of dollars worth of public assets into the hands of private wealth holders, and enriched lawyers, management consultants etc into the bargain, we were told that we are all capitalists now because our pension funds bought the assets. Joke. Anyway, I keep reading and being told that there is no longer any meaningful distinction between Left and Right, with both falling into the hands of totalitarian discourse. Even so-called progressives advocate that the traditional Left should partner up with the traditional Right (and far Right) to keep ‘centrists’ out of power or to stop governments taking basic actions to protect public health. It is the ultimate victory for the neoliberals to have persuaded the Left that they have more in common with the Right than ever before. This is another example of how duped the Left has become.
Last week, the New York Times published the latest Paul Krugman article on inflation (which is behind its paywall). It is syndicated elsewhere and you can access it here at The Berkshire Eagle (April 13, 2022) – Paul Krugman: Inflation is about to come down — but don’t get too excited. I wondered whether the author had offered his services cheaper to the NYTs and elsewhere given his concern for inflation, and, apparently, his assertion that wages are a critical factor in sustaining it. What this article highlights is mainstream New Keynesian macroeconomics – the dominant paradigm in our teaching, research and policy circles. What it also highlights is how different the mainstream is to Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), despite characters like Krugman and his fellow New Keynesians trying to tell the world that there is nothing particularly different about MMT and the way they do economics. It also provides another chance for me to add nuance to the Job Guarantee.
Last Friday (April 1, 2022), the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their latest labour market data – Employment Situation Summary – March 2022 – which reported a total payroll employment rise of only 431,000 jobs. Fortunately, employment growth was strong enough to drive the unemployment rate down by 0.2 points to 3.6 per cent. But there is still room for the unemployment rate to fall even further. The US labour market is still 1,579 thousand jobs short from where it was at the end of March 2020, which helps to explain why there are no wage pressures emerging. Real wages continued to decline. Any analyst who is claiming the US economy is close to full employment hasn’t looked at the data.
Inflation data continues to come in from various nations indicating an ongoing escalation in prices dominated by energy and cars (in the US), housing and transport (UK), housing and transport (Australia) and so on. The major question I always ask is this: What would you expect to happen after a major global pandemic that has lasted more than 2 years and is still not resolved and which has closed factories, ports, transport networks, made workers sick so they cannot work, choked shipping, kept people at home while governments have to varying extents maintained their income, shifted spending to home maintenance etc away from haircuts, and the rest of it. And then, add an uncompetitive cartel that manipulates supply to gouge profits (OPEC). And on top of all that have some bushfires and floods around the place. And to even top all of that have a character who thinks he is a Tsar invading a neighbour and creating havoc and destruction. What else would you expect? Oh, its all down to QE and fiscal deficits, I hear them say. Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) again – now we know those ideas are defunct. We told you so! And repeat. Interest rates have to rise. Repeat. At least the ECB seems to understand the situation more than most, which is something.
It is hard work being an economist. Especially when about 90 per cent of what one reads each day is fiction masquerading as truth. That wouldn’t be so bad because fiction is good when it is in the right place. But in this context, the fiction that comes out from economists and their lackeys in the financial media causes massive damage to innocent citizens who lose their jobs, have their pay aspirations stifled, enter poverty, lose their homes and commit suicide out of sheer hopelessness with the situations that are forced upon them. When you dig into some of the media coverage you realise that it is really just a self-serving promotion for speculators in financial and share markets and has very little foundation in a deeper understanding of economics. This so-called Op Ed piece in The Age (March 14, 2022) – No-win situation: The Fed is paying the price for dragging its feet – is representative of the nonsense that parades as economic commentary. It reflects a sad state of affairs.
For years, students have been taught that fiscal policy is an ineffective policy tool to regulate fluctuations in national income derived from changes in spending and saving decisions in the non-government sector. This narrative justified the austerity purges that we have become accustomed to pre-pandemic. The elevation of the fiscal surplus to some desired goal has been instilled in our minds and we have voted to support governments that record these surpluses because we have thought they were being fiscally responsible. The GFC, and, more recently, the pandemic has helped undermine that narrative as people have realised that the only thing between them and hunger has been government spending. The ‘market’ hasn’t helped them. The evidence that government spending has reduced poverty and created opportunities for families that were not previously possible is strong. One such measure is the – Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) – which was first published by the US Census Bureau in 2011. This blog post records my notes on that data release.
Last Friday (March 4, 2022), the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their latest labour market data – Employment Situation Summary – February 2022 – which reported a total payroll employment rise of only 678,000 jobs and a rise in the participation rate. Fortunately, employment growth was strong enough to drive the unemployment rate down by 0.2 points to 3.8 per cent. The US labour market is still 2,105 thousand jobs short from where it was at the end of February 2020, which helps to explain why there are no wage pressures emerging. Real wages continued to decline. Any analyst who is claiming the US economy is close to full employment hasn’t looked at the data.
It is hard to imagine that so little progress has been made in dismantling the mainstream macroeconomics paradigm over the last decade within the institutions of government. We have had the GFC, and now, the pandemic to disclose what does and does not happen when governments engage in relatively large fiscal shifts, yet the fictional world that is taught in mainstream university programs and echoed in policy making circles keeps being rehearsed. While researching the literature on rates of return on public infrastructure spending for a project (book chapter) I am working on at present, I came across the starkness of the mainstream deception. They are still claiming that public spending damages private spending.
There was an informative article in the UK Guardian over the week (January 13, 2022) – Australia’s supply chain issues likely to continue despite drop in Covid cases – which documented the many ways in which the pandemic has led to difficulties in getting goods supplied to retail outlets or their destination (in the case of overseas mail deliveries). The majority of recent articles about the economy and policy options have erred on the side of the need for interest rate hikes and fiscal policy cutbacks, which assume the rising inflation rates around the world are the demand-side events. But it is obvious to anyone other than private bank economists who are lobbying for interest rate rises to increase the profits for their banks, or, mainstream economists, who oppose central bank bond-buying and fiscal deficits, that the cause of the problems at present is not being driven by an explosion of nominal spending – neither from the non-government sector or through fiscal policy. Here is some more evidence to support that conclusion.