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Covid-specific inflationary pressures are dominant and are transitory

There has been some very interesting data and other research published recently that allow us to more fully understand what is driving the current inflationary pressures. There is a massive lobby now pushing the idea that the central bank bond-buying programs and the rising fiscal support during the pandemic are responsible. This sort of narrative is coming from the mainstream economists who are suffering attention-deficit disorders (even though they get the top platforms all the time to preach their views), and, who in the last few weeks have become increasingly vehement and personal in their attacks on Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). Their actions are a sign that the cognitive dissonance is getting to them and they realise they have been left behind. But the evidence that is continually coming out across a number of indicators continues to reaffirm my view that the current inflationary spikes are being driven by the total abnormal circumstances the world has found itself in as a result of the pandemic. The usual institutional and structural drivers of an inflation – which were certainly prominent in the 1970s – seem to be absent at present. I will present further research next week on this topic as I build further evidence.

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US labour market – employment and participation up, but still no obvious wage pressures

Last Friday (February 4, 2022), the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their latest labour market data – Employment Situation Summary – January 2022 – which reported a total payroll employment rise of only 467,000 jobs in December and a rise in the participation rate – which often leads to a rise in the unemployment rate as marginal workers outside the labour force sense their opportunities for work are now better. Employment growth accelerated in January 2022 which reverses the recent trend. 0.3 points decline in the official unemployment rate to 3.9 per cent, while participation was unchanged at 61.9 per cent. While the US labour market is still creating work – it is doing so at a declining rate and there are unequal patterns across the industrial sectors. The US labour market is still 2,875 thousand jobs short from where it was at the end of February 2020, which helps to explain why there are no fundamental wage pressures emerging. Any analyst who is claiming the US economy is close to full employment hasn’t looked at the data.

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US labour market cannot be healthy with rising numbers of sick people

Last Friday (January 7, 2022), the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their latest labour market data – Employment Situation Summary – December 2021 – which reported a total payroll employment rise of only 199,000 jobs in December and a 0.3 points decline in the official unemployment rate to 3.9 per cent, while participation was unchanged at 61.9 per cent. While the US labour market is still creating work – it is doing so at a declining rate and there are unequal patterns across the industrial sectors. The US labour market is still 3,572 thousand jobs short from where it was at the end of February 2020, which helps to explain why there are no fundamental wage pressures emerging. Any analyst who is claiming the US economy is close to full employment hasn’t looked at the data. The failure to introduce a renewed fiscal stimulus will definitely leave the economy worse off, especially with the renewed virus onslaught from Omicron.

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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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US labour market – job shortfall continues with government sector undermining job creation

Last Friday (December 3, 2021), the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their latest labour market data – Employment Situation Summary – November 2021 – which reported a total payroll employment rise of only 210,000 jobs in August and a 0.4 points decline in the official unemployment rate to 4.2 per cent, while participation rose by 0.2 points. This is one of those crazy months when the payroll figure suggests a slowing down while the labour force survey paints a fairly rosy outlook with strong jobs growth stimulating rising participation and a declining labour underutilisation rate. We will have to wait until next month to see how it all works out. But the undeniable facts are that the economy is still creating work – in an unequal pattern across the sectors and the government sector is undermining the benefits of that creation. The US labour market is still 3,912 thousand jobs short from where it was at the end of February 2020, which helps to explain why there are no fundamental wage pressures emerging. Any analyst who is claiming the US economy is close to full employment hasn’t looked at the data.

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US labour market improves but still a long way to go before full employment is reached

Last Friday (November 5, 2021), the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their latest labour market data – Employment Situation Summary – October 2021 – which reported a total payroll employment rise of only 531,000 jobs in August and a 0.2 points decline in the official unemployment rate to 4.6 per cent. With participation unchanged, this was a stronger result than the previous month and the employment-population ratio rose by 0.1 points. It is still well down on the February 2020 peak though. The US labour market is still 4,204 thousand jobs short from where it was at the end of February 2020, which helps to explain why there are no fundamental wage pressures emerging. An occupational analysis shows that the lower paid occupations have not participated proportionally in the jobs growth and many groups have endured real Median weekly earning cuts over the course of the pandemic. Any analyst who is claiming the US economy is close to full employment hasn’t looked at the data.

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Latest US quits behaviour signals possible shift in power to workers

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics published the latest JOLTs data last week (October 12, 2021) – Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary – August 2021 – which has raised a possible shift in bargaining power in the US labour market towards workers. The most obvious sign of that is the rising quit rates, which are most prevalent in the low-wage sectors. While there is still some slack in the US labour market, the evidence suggests that workers are taking advantage of the improved job opportunities to pursue better wages and conditions. We will have to wait and see whether there are any significant wage outcomes arising from this behaviour or whether workers are just jumping from very bad to bad jobs. Time will tell.

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US labour market – recovery in a fairly languid state

Last Friday (October 8, 2021), the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their latest labour market data – Employment Situation Summary – September 2021 – which reported a total payroll employment rise of only 194,000 jobs in August and a 0.4 points decline in the official unemployment rate to 4.8 per cent. The combination of rising employment and falling unemployment might suggest that things are improving. But the reality is that the active labour force shrunk significantly as the participation rate fell by 0.1 points in the face of declining employment opportunities. The results suggest that the labour market recovery has slowed quite significantly from the situation mid-year. The US labour market is still 4,970 thousand jobs short from where it was at the end of February 2020, which helps to explain why there are no fundamental wage pressures emerging. Further, it is clear that there has been a slight bias towards low pay jobs being added in the recovery at the expense of above-median wage jobs, particularly in the service occupations.

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ECB researchers find fiscal policy is very effective and more so if central banks buy up the debt

The ECB published a Working Paper recently (September 2021) – Monetary and fiscal complementarity in the Covid-19 pandemic – which represents progress in the narrative. While the technical model that the ECB uses is just an ad hoc attempt to reverse engineer the reality so they can claim they can explain it, what is useful from the exercise is that the old mainstream narratives that fiscal policy is ineffective in providing permanent boosts to real output (or that austerity does not permanently damage the growth trajectory) can no longer be sustained. The taboo surrounding central bank purchases of government debt because they cause accelerating inflation can no longer be sustained. The claims that fiscal deficits drive up interest rates can no longer be sustained. Now the public debate just has to reflect that reality and we will have made progress. Of course, this is all core MMT – we knew it all along!

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Remembering Tuesday, September 11

Last Saturday, September 11, we observed the anniversary of a terrible terrorist act, inflicted on a free people with a democratically-elected government by multinational conspiratorial forces. The terrorist attack happened on a Tuesday. It resulted in the death of thousands of innocent people and the offenders have never been brought to justice. We should etch that day – Tuesday, September 11, 1973 – in our consciences, especially if you are an American, British or Australian citizen, given the culpability of our respective governments in that despicable coup d’etat. Today, a bit of a different blog post as I remember this historical event and the way it undermined progressive thought for years. The type of economic policies introduced by Pinochet on advice from the ‘Chicago Boys’ became the standard approach for even the traditional social democratic parties in the 1980s and beyond. We still haven’t abandoned the macroeconomic ideology that accompanies this approach. And Chile, 1973, was the live laboratory. Yes, the Blairites and the Delors-types and the American Democrats, etc don’t chuck inconvenient people out of planes in the ocean to get rid of them like Pinochet did on a daily basis, but the macroeconomics invoked is not that different.

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