US labour market – stability abounds although, worryingly, real wage gains have evaporated

Last Friday (October 6, 2023), the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their latest labour market data – Employment Situation Summary – September 2023 – which showed payroll employment rising by 336,000 and the unemployment rate stable, after rising 0.3 points to 3.8 per cent in August. I posed the question last month when employment growth had slowed considerably and unemployment had started to rise whether this marked a tipping point. My answer, given the extra data that resolved some of the uncertainty about last month’s data, is that I don’t think it did. In September 2023, the data suggested a very steady labour market – employment growth above the average of the last 9 months but just enough to keep pace with the labour force growth. Participation was constant as was the employent-population ratio. All signs of stability. The disturbing fact though, was the renewed failure of nominal wages growth to transalate into real wage gains for workers. The relatively modest real wage gains over the last few months as the inflation rate has declined evaporated. The question that mainstream economists need to answer is how come the significant interest rate rises have not seriously impacted the labour market performance? I know why. But their textbooks do not!

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Australian labour market – rebound after weak month but 10 per cent of available and willing labour remain idle

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released of the latest labour force data today (June 15, 2023) – Labour Force, Australia – for May 2023. The May result reverses two consecutive months of weaker results from the Labour Force survey. Employment rose by 75.9 thousand (a strong monthly result), participation rose by 0.1 point to a record high, and unemployment fell by 16,500. But one month is not a trend and it should be emphasised that there are 10 per cent of the available and willing working age population who are being wasted in one way or another – either unemployed or underemployed. That extent of idle labour means Australia is not really close to full employment despite the claims by the mainstream commentators. I am waiting for the RBA governor to claim the fall in the unemployment rate justifies further interest rate increases. It doesn’t but since when has logic and facts got in the road of his agenda.

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