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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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US labour market recovery stalling

Last Friday (September 3, 2021), the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their latest labour market data – Employment Situation Summary – August 2021 – which reported a total payroll employment rise of only 235,000 jobs in August and a 0.2 points decline in the official unemployment rate to 5.2 per cent. The results suggest that the labour market recovery has slowed quite significantly. The US labour market is still 5,333 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.

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US labour market continues to recover – but a long way to go yet

Last Friday (August 6, 2021), the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their latest labour market data – Employment Situation Summary – July 2021 – which reported a total payroll employment rise of 943,000 and a 0.5 points decline in the official unemployment rate to 5.4 per cent. The results are strong even though the US labour market is still 5,702 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.

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Investors lose out following the advice of New Keynesian (mainstream) macroeconomics

I have been doing a lot of talks over the last few years discussing Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) with financial professionals. I stress that I am not acting as a consultant, to allow this community to make more money. I often joke I hope they all go broke. My motivation is education and one hopes that these communities will spread our ideas through their own influential networks. The aim is to put pressure on the public policy makers to restore full employment and reorient the public imagination away from the gloom that the neoliberal years has imposed on our policy aspirations. One of the things I confront these audiences with is the reality that an adherence to the precepts of mainstream macroeconomics and the predictions that flow from them have undermined their own objectives (which, shh, is to make money). I can easily point to many ways in which the mainstream of my profession have vicariously made predictions that could never be accurate, yet have been relied on by investors as if they were derived from valid knowledge. I have no sympathy for those who have made massive losses in this way, but when the consequences spread into the real economy and start costing jobs and work-related incomes, then the concerns rise. In the last few weeks, we have seen a classic example of this phenomenon and the message is – won’t they ever learn!

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Still a lot of slack remaining in the US labour market

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics published the latest JOLTs data yesterday (July 7, 2021) – Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary – May 2021 – which provides some interesting insights into labour market dynamics that run against the mainstream narrative. It allows me to calculate broader measures of labour demand and supply to achieve a more accurate indication of how tight or otherwise the US labour market is. Currently there is still considerable slack in the US labour market, some of it, outside the official labour force, and some of it in underemployment, as well as the official unemployment number. My estimates of the gap between labour supply (employment plus unemployment plus part-time for economic reasons plus not in the labour force but want to work) and labour demand (employment plus job openings) comes to 12,465 thousand or 7.75 per cent of the labour force. In February 2020, this gap stood at 8,076 thousand or 4.9 per cent of the labour force. So there has been improvement but there is still a lot of slack in the US labour market.

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US labour market recovery leaves considerable slack and rising long-term unemployment

Last Friday (July 2, 2021), the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their latest labour market data – Employment Situation Summary – June 2021 – which showed that the recovery since the catastrophic labour market collapse in March and April 2020, continues with payroll employment rising by 850,000 in June 2021. The unemployment rate rose by 0.1 points to 5.9. However, the broader labour wastage captured by the BLS U6 measure fell by 0.4 points to 9.8 per cent. The US labour market is still 6,76 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. The other notable point is that long-term unemployment now dominates among the duration categories published by the BLS.

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