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Australian labour market – slow employment growth but unemployment continues to fall as population growth remains weak

Today (July 15, 2021), the Australian Bureau of Statistics put out the latest – Labour Force, Australia – for June 2021. The data shows that the trend where even relatively weak employment growth is driving the unemployment rate down because the growth in labour supply, is continuing. Employment increased by 29,100 or 0.2 per cent (which is weak), monthly hours worked decreased by 1.8 per cent, the participation rate was stable, yet unemployment fell by 22,000 (which is excellent), and the unemployment rate fell 0.2 points to 4.9 per cent. But underemployment rose sharply (0.5 points) to 7.9 per cent. So it is a good outcome for unemployment to be falling but the quantity and quality of employment growth is not desirable. The drop in working hours is due to the two-week lockdown in Victoria recently. Next month, the current extended lockdown in Sydney will show up as a negative in the July result. The labour market is still 232.9 thousand jobs of where it would have been if employment had continued to grow according to the average growth rate between 2015 and February 2020.

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    British Labour remains unelectable – Part 104

    It is Wednesday and I am now unable to get home to Melbourne as a result of the border closure between Victoria and NSW. That closure is the result of the incompetence of the conservative NSW government who thought they could beat the Delta variant of COVID and leave Sydney open for business. They have now learned that their claim to be the world’s best virus containing government were hubris and so regional NSW is also suffering, what will be a very long lockdown. Victoria has sensibly closed its border as have the other states to NSW, which now is an isolated, pariah state. Pity the NSW Labor opposition is so weak. Anyway, today is a few snippets about the British Labour party being so weak, some reflections on monetary sovereignty, and a note that the barbarians are trying to kill off social sciences in our universities. Then some happiness via some great bass playing.

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      European Commission processes still biased towards fiscal austerity

      I keep reading that the European Commission has abandoned the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) and that the euro is no longer a problem. I beg to differ. On June 6, 2021, the European Commission released a – Report prepared in accordance with Article 126(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union – which updated their latest views on the state of fiscal balances in the EU. The Report confirms the Commission’s intention to return to the Excessive Deficit Mechanism process in 2023. The problem is that the whole assessment process is biased towards fiscal austerity. I show why in this blog post.

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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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          The Weekend Quiz – July 10-11, 2021 – 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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            The Weekend Quiz – July 10-11, 2021

            Welcome to The Weekend Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention or not to the blog posts that I post. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.

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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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                Intergenerational Report – the past is catching up with the government and the game is up

                It’s Wednesday, and I have been filming most of the day some of the material that will appear in the next set of course material offered by – MMTed. We hope to offer some new courses later in September. But progress is slow (see below). Today, I provide some brief comments on my response to the Federal government’s latest – 2021 Intergenerational Report – which is one of the ridiculous, smokescreen-creating exercises that allow the government to avoid political responsibility for its fiscal surplus obsession. They come out every five years and are usually jam-packed with scaremongering about unsustainable fiscal deficits and the need for spending cuts. The only difference this time is that the damage caused by the years of following the austerity path – to health care, to aged care, to skills development, etc, have changed our attitudes. We have also seen that the government can spend what it likes without taxes going up and without bond markets declaring the government insolvent. We have now lived with large deficits as a result of the pandemic and the game is up on the deficits are bad and the sky will crash down story line. Our changing view on what we now demand from the Government is reflected in this latest effort.

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                  Staggered minimum wage increases in Australia further punish the most vulnerable workers

                  Last Thursday, guest blogger Scott Baum analysed the recent decision by the Fair work Commission – Annual Wage Review 2020-21 – on June 16, 2021, which raised the National minimum Wage in Australia to $772.60 per week or $20.33 per hour. See his blog post at – The working poor are still poor in Australia (July, 2021). Today, I also review that decision as part of my annual surveillance on minimum wage trends in Australia. The Fair Work Commission, is Australia’s wage setting tribunal, and as part of that task conducts an annual wage review which sets minimum wages across the nation. The minimum wage determination then flows on to other wage rates (these are the wage awards linked to the NMW). The decision is poor because it will further undermine the real living standards of tens of thousands of low paid workers. In particular, the decision to phase in the pay increases (November 2021 for Group 2 Awards and February 2022 for Group 3 Awards) is a disaster for low-paid workers in the hospitality, retail and tourism sectors. Meanwhile the major employer groups argued for zero or mimimal nominal rise while enjoying growth in profits with rising productivity growth. A scandalous indictment of our system.

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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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