It’s Wednesday, and we have some analysis and news and then my music segment for the week. Yesterday, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) stunned the nation by pushing up interest rates by 0.5 points, claiming it was the responsible thing to do given that inflation was higher than expected. They then outlined all the factors driving inflation – none of which are going to be responsive to interest rate rises. Further, when one dissects the way in which interest rate rises work through distributional effects and effects on business costs, it is not clear that increasing rates will not just add to the stimulation rather than reduce it as the RBA claims. Next, we Fact Check the Fact Checkers and after all of that we have some Tupelo Blues, to restore some sense of decorum.
Last Friday (June 3, 2022), the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their latest labour market data – Employment Situation Summary – May 2022 – which reported a total payroll employment rise of only 390,000 jobs and an official unemployment rate of 3.6 per cent. The US labour market is still 822 thousand payroll jobs short from where it was at the end of May 2020, which helps to explain why there are no wage pressures emerging. Real wages continued to decline as the supply disruptions and the greed of increased corporate profit margin push sustain the inflationary pressures. Any analyst who is claiming the US economy is close to full employment hasn’t looked at the data. It is madness to be increasing interest rates in this environment.
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.
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.
I wrote last week in this blog post – We have a new federal government – finally some decency will hopefully return (May 23, 2022) – that Australia had finally rid itself of the disastrous conservative government that had violated our nation for the last 9 or so years. It was a moment to celebrate, given that we could not have fallen much further in the eyes of the world and that our society was falling apart from the neglect and inaction of that government and the favours it did for the cronies in business that supported it. But I stress the temporality of ‘a moment’. The new Ministers were sworn in yesterday and have hit the road running with all sorts of press conferences and statements. Some of the things I am hearing sound like an improvement. But the statements from the new Treasurer suggest that nothing much has been learned from the GFC, the pandemic and the period in between. And unless he changes his tack, we won’t see anything ambitious achieved in the next 3 years.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics released the latest – Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product, March 2022 – today (June 1, 2022), which shows that the Australian economy grew by 0.8 per cent in the March-quarter 2022 and by 3.3 per cent over the 12 months to the end of March 2022 – a decline in the growth rate. Nominal GDP grew by 10.2 per cent over the year and the change in the GDP price index (a measure of inflation) was 8.2 per cent. The data tells us that after the initial rebound from the lockdowns, growth moderated in the March-quarter and was driven by domestic demand – household consumption, government spending and inventory accumulation. The external sector undermined growth even though the terms of trade boomed. Productivity growth was strong but note working hours fell. The productivity growth provided scope for non-inflationary real wage rises. The problem is that business are pocketing these productivity gains as profits. That needs to stop and the government should do something about it. The wage share fell below 50 per cent which is a shocking testimony of the way the wages system is penalising workers.