It is Wednesday and so just a few points today. I obviously like data as it tells me a lot about the world and often forces me to alter my views on things. While I mostly analyse economic and financial data, which is my professional skill, I also like to investigate other data sets on things that interest me. Today, I am looking into the vaccine question, which has been playing on my mind lately as the Australian political class, under pressure from all sorts of business lobby groups who fund their election campaigns, have been ‘opening up’ the economy (states and territories) despite high case numbers in some jurisdictions and despite relatively low vaccination rates. They have come up with a ‘Roadmap’ to ‘living with Covid’ (which will see many people die from Covid) and defined key thresholds in terms of average vaccination rates. The problem is the these thresholds are not very scientific at all and their semblance of ‘safety’ points is an illusion. In effect, the political class has abandoned their pretence to following health advice and are just going for it. It is a difficult period in our history.
At present, Britain is still in the throes of a global pandemic that has devastated the nation. Last week, at Brighton, the key economic spokespersons for the TLP or the Tory-lite Party (short form, British Labour Party) told the voters of Britain why they should remain in opposition. They were sterling performances by the leader and shadow chancellor. Clarifying for all, the fact that the Party hasn’t learned much at all about their recent history. A history that has seen them lose 4 national elections in a row and in the face of one of the worst British governments in history (and that is really saying something), the TLP’s electoral fortunes continue to wallow in loss-making percentiles. Then we had the Tory version outlined by the actual chancellor on Monday. Taking advantage of the political space the TLP has given them to reinstate all the religious nonsense about the immorality of public debt and the rest of the stuff that cultists (mainstream economists) dish up.
Today is Wednesday and we mourn the death of Charlie Watts. But while we are doing that, here are some snippets on C18th philosophy and Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), the ideological poverty of German politics, vaccines, and then some Charlie.
Today, we have a guest blogger in the guise of Professor Scott Baum from Griffith University who has been one of my regular research colleagues over a long period of time. Today he is writing about impact on local communities of the current Covid-19 outbreak in Sydney. Over to Scott …
One of the emerging discussions is what will the post-coronavirus world look like both within nations and across nations. There is a growing thread about the worries of increased state authoritarianism as governments have imposed an array of restrictions. There is also an increasing debate about the need for nations to return to enhanced national self-sufficiency to avoid the disruptions in the global supply chain that the pandemic has created. In 1933, John Maynard Keynes gave a very interesting lecture on this topic in Dublin. In this blog post, I consider that lecture and assess its currency in the contemporary setting.
It has been a while since I updated my commentary on the new bi-weekly dataset using Australian Tax Office payroll data that the Australian Bureau of Statistics started publishing in March 2020, in order to provide more updated information on the state of the labour market during the pandemic. The Monthly Labour Force survey comes out in the third week of each month and relates to data collected around the second week of the previous month. With ongoing state government lockdowns being imposed with little warning having a significant impact on employment, this more frequent dataset was welcome. We are now in a situation where around 13 millions Australians are in tight lockdowns (over half the population), principally in Melbourne and Sydney. The latter, due to the incompetence of the conservative state government in NSW, has been in lockdown for weeks now and as the largest state, the reverberations are clearly going to be felt across the nation. Last week (August 5, 2021), the ABS released the – Weekly Payroll Jobs and Wages in Australia, Week ending 17 July 2021 – which provides the first glimpse of what the impact of the extended lockdown in Sydney (in particular) is having on the labour market. Employment in NSW shrunk by 5.1 per cent in the 3 weeks since June 26, 2021 (the start of the restrictions). Overall, employment has slumped by 2.4 per cent nationally. And the virus is spreading into regional NSW and things will get worse. The damage is being borne largely by our youth, given the occupation segregation in the ‘closed down’ sectors. The Federal government is demanding we all get vaccinated but due to its trying to ‘save money’ last year, there is insufficient vaccine available to supply the demand. Both the NSW and Federal governments have demonstrated their incompetence in the decisions they have taken in the name of ‘freedom’ and ‘fiscal surpluses’.
Australia is now locked into a new phase of the pandemic where NSW is in danger of allowing the virus to run free throughout the population due to the incompetence of the conservative state government. For the duration of the pandemic up until now, the NSW government has been lecturing the other states (mostly run by Labor governments) about how they had a superior health system (health is organised along state/territory lines in Australia) and how they valued freedom more than the dictatorial Labor states that go into lockdown very quickly if a case threatens. It turns out NSW has just been lucky to now and the latest outbreak has revealed their ‘freedom first’ approach is a false freedom. Sydney has been locked down for weeks now and cases are still rising and it seems the contact tracers have lost control. But the hubris from the NSW government has really exposed a much deeper malaise that has been evident for years now as a result of the way neoliberalism has reconfigured the public sector and the role of government. The pandemic is just exposes the erosion of government capacity to provide public services and infrastructure and deal with public emergencies. That is one of the important revelations to come out of the pandemic.
It’s Wednesday and I am catching up on other writing commitments. But I have been examining the latest – Google Mobility Reports – to assess the differences between NSW and Victoria during this latest COVID crisis that has befallen Australia. The results are not particularly robust in terms of statistical benchmarks, rather, being eyeballing exercises, but they do tell and interest story about life in Australia and the cultural differences that lie on either side of the border between our two largest states. And, as usual on a Wednesday, I get out of writing by offering music.
It’s Wednesday and I have been tied up most of the day with commitments. So we will have to be content today with a couple of snippets. The first about the on-going inflation mania and the way in which the ECB seems oblivious to it. The second about the gross incompetence of the Australia government, who has put the health of the nation at risk and forced state governments to invoke rolling lockdowns as only a small number of us are vaccinated and cases keep seeping out of a flawed quarantine system (the latter being the federal responsibility). And once the anger subsides from that little discussion, we have the usual Wednesday music offering to restore peace.
Today is just a number-crunching exercise, which I conducted to allow me to understand where the employment losses and gains in the Australian labour market since the onset of the pandemic. The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics Labour Force data, which I analysed in this blog post – Australian labour market – stronger as working age population flattens out (June 17, 2021) – revealed that total employment in Australia is now above the February 2020 level by 130.2 thousand (1.0 per cent). I noted that some sectors are still languishing while others are rebounding strongly. I had to wait a week before the detailed industrial level employment data was released and today’s blog post is a brief view of that data to ascertain which sectors (and sub-sectors) are in the ‘languishing’ category and which have rebounded. This is also important for assessing any impending inflation risk from the employment growth. There is always a motivation for doing this boring type of number analysis.