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External border closures in Australia reduced the unemployment rate by around 2.7 points

The debate continues as to whether the population growth slowdown instigated by the Covid border restrictions imposed by the Federal government has been responsible for the rapid decline in the unemployment rate in Australia. The mainstream view is that migration is good for the economy and adds more in net terms to overall spending (and labour demand) than the extra workers add to labour supply, meaning that it does not put upward pressure on the unemployment rate. I have always contested that view – as a general statement. The reality is that depending on the stage of the cycle and the strength of labour demand, the rate at which new entrants enter the labour force, and the size of the unemployment pool at any point in time, immigration can undermine the employment prospects of local workers. Based on some reasonable estimates, if the external border had not been closed, the unemployment rate would be around 6.9 per cent now, rather than the official rate of 4.2 per cent. The rapidity of the recovery in the unemployment rate is due to the border closures and that should condition appropriate visa policies.

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The Weekend Quiz – February 26-27, 2022 – answers and discussion

Here are the answers with discussion for this Weekend’s Quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.

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Australia – workers endure on-going real wage cuts as corporate profits soar

Yesterday (February 23, 2022), the ABS released the latest – Wage Price Index, Australia – for the December-quarter 2021. The WPI data shows that nominal wages growth remained modest to say the least. The data shows that the significant cuts to workers’ purchasing power continue, and, in my view, constitute a national emergency. While the conservatives are railing about inflation now and looking to target workers’ wages (further cuts), the evidence is that the wages side is not driving any inflationary pressures – the opposite is the case. The business sector, as a whole, thinks it is clever to always oppose wages growth and the banks love that because they can foist more debt onto households to maintain their consumption expenditure. But the reality is clear – there can be no sustained recovery for the economy post Covid without significant increases in the current rate of wages growth.

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Workers in UK enduring real wage cuts except the unproductive bankers

It is Wednesday and I have three live presentations to make throughout the day. So we will be brief today. The ABS released the latest Wage Price Index today which shows that annual wages growth in Australia was 2.3 per cent, compared to the official inflation rate of 3.5 per cent. I will analyse that data in detail tomorrow, given I am short of time today. But there was also disturbing data coming out of the UK last week on the wages front, which reflects a major imbalance in priorities and also tells me that there is no wage demands driving the current inflationary episode.

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The year Australian progressives abandoned the national commitment to full employment

At present, the unemployment rate in Australia is 4.2 per cent and falling. If the rate of new immigrants remains low for a while as our external borders open, then it is likely the unemployment rate will fall into the 3 per cent range soon. What people are learning is that the claims made by mainstream economists that full employment was anything between 5 and 8 per cent (at various times to suit their arguments) was a lie. It just suited their ideological agenda and flawed theoretical framework to maintain that narrative. Of course, underemployment is still very high, which means that even if the unemployment rate falls further, we are still a way from being at full employment. But with prices accelerating at present, we are seeing calls for government to pursue an austerity fiscal approach, which would prevent the unemployment rate falling further. We have been here before. Today, I document a major turning point in Australian politics, when the Labor government became the first to abandon the national government’s commitment to full employment, a policy approach that had defined the post Second World War period of prosperity. So … back to 1974 we go.

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The last thing we need is a return to fiscal surpluses and rising household debt

There are some Op Eds that are bad, and then others that transcend that standard to become terrible. Such was the case last week when I read this article in the Australian press (Sydney Morning Herald) (February 18, 2022) – It’s time to return to Costello economics, whoever wins the federal election – which was written by a former advisor to the last Labor Prime Minister in Australia. The article is dishonest in that it completely ignores the most significant aspects of the period he seeks to eulogise. It is also scary if it reflects current Labor Party thinking, given the author’s previous associations.

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The Weekend Quiz – February 19-20, 2022 – answers and discussion

Here are the answers with discussion for this Weekend’s Quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.

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Australian labour market – as Covid spreads, workers get sick and hours or work falls dramatically

The Australian Bureau of Statistics released the latest labour force data today (February 17, 2022) – Labour Force, Australia – for January 2022. The situation is this: most states have now abandoned Covid restrictions and the virus has spread quickly and is now impacting significantly on the availability of workers. One standout in today’s data is the dramatic fall in monthly hours worked (-8.8 per cent). This puts paid to the notion spread by economists that there is a trade-off between the economy and the health of workers. Employment growth was modest to say the least and full-time jobs growth was negative. The unemployment rate was unchanged. The flat population growth as external borders remain largely closed (or there is a slow take-up of international travel opportunities from foreign tourists) has helped keep the unemployment rate low as employment growth slows dramatically. The falling fiscal support is not helping however.

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