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US national accounts data – no sign that interest rates are working the way economists think they work

On October 26, 2023, the US Bureau of Economic Analysis published the latest US National Accounts figures – Gross Domestic Product, Third Quarter 2023 (Advance Estimate) – which showed that “Real gross domestic product (GDP) increased at an annual rate of 4.9 percent in the third quarter of 2023”. The June-quarter 2023 growth rate was 2.1 per cent. There was broad-based growth in all the expenditure components, including those that would be most sensitive to interest rate rises. My prior, of course, is that the interest rates would not significantly reduce growth in the short run, whereas mainstream New Keynesian theory considers interest rate rises to be an effective tool in moderating total spending, and, in turn, reducing inflation. The reality does not support the mainstream proposition. Consecutive national accounts releases from the US, however, have shown that aggregate expenditure is resilient in the face of the interest rate increases.

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The Smith Family manga continues – Episode 2 is now available

Yes, you have been waiting all week to see how the Smith Family was faring as they struggle to work out where the government currency comes from. Well, Episode 2 in our new weekly Manga series – The Smith Family and their Adventures with Money – is now available. Have a bit of fun with it and circulate it to those who you think will benefit …

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Video conversation – Seeking Full Employment Without Falling Prey to Neoliberal Traps

Given I wrote a detailed CPI analysis yesterday (Wednesday), I am using today as if it was my Wednesday post where I cover a range of topics. I was criticised on social media last week for combining in last Wednesday’s post – Launching the CofFEE Financial Resilience Barometer – Version 1.0 (October 18, 2023) – scientific material (the research project results) with commentary on the current situation in the Middle East (and music etc). I was accused of trying to drum up traffic to the research site by including an unrelated discussion on a topical matter (the situation). The point is that in my usual Wednesday post I just roam free and write about all manner of topics that I have thought about in the previous week and which I don’t want to devote a full post too. I don’t play games such as clickbait etc. Anyway, today, I promote a video of a long interview I did in September that has just been released, talk about some framing issues and provide the usual musical segment to calm us all down.

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Slight rise in Australian inflation rate driven by factors that do not justify further rate hikes

Today (October 25, 2023), the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the latest – Consumer Price Index, Australia – for the September-quarter 2023. The data showed a slight uptick in the quarterly rate of inflation with the CPI rising by 1.2 per cent (up 0.4 points), largely due to petrol price rises and rental increases. The latter is, in part, driven by the previous RBA interest rate hikes – so monetary policy causing inflation rather than reducing it. The annual inflation rate, however, was significantly lower again in the September-quarter as the supply-side drivers abate – down to 5.4 per cent from 6.1 per cent in the June-quarter. While the RBA has been threatening further rate hikes if the new data showed an increase in the inflation rate, there is nothing in this quarterly release that would justify that. The fuel prices are not sensitive to domestic monetary policy and further rate hikes will make the rental situation worse.

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Neoliberalism has not been about applying Chicago-style economic theory

Scottish-born economist – Angus Deaton – recently published his new book – An Immigrant Economist Explores the Land of Inequality – in which he provides a swathing critique of the state of the economics profession, particularly in the way that it impacts on policy making and societal well-being. He is a microeconomist who made a name for himself studying consumer demand, which means he has not contributed anything significant to the field of macroeconomics, where I hang out. The title refers to his migration to the US from Britain in the 1980s and his reflections on what he found and how the economics academy has changed over this 45 years in the profession. His point is that the economics profession has lost its purpose and should return to a focus on advancing well-being. He is particularly critical of Chicago-style economics – or ‘free market’ thinking. The problem though is that the neoliberal era has not been about applying Chicago-style economic theory. The elites just say they are doing that when in fact all they are doing is utilising the immense government capacity to shift the intervention dial in their favour. The government has not given way to the free market – it has just been reconfigured to become an agent of capital.

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Australian labour market – slight weakening in September as hidden unemployment rises

The Australian Bureau of Statistics released the latest – Labour Force, Australia – for September 2023 today (October 19, 2023). My overall assessment is that the the labour market is now looking subdued although relatively stable. The decline in full-time employment is a worry. Almost all the net change in employment over the last six months has been part-time. In September, employment growth was not strong enough to absorb the underlying population growth. The only reason unemployment fell in the context of the weak employment growth was because the fall in the participation rate meant more workers left the labour force. There are now 9.9 per cent of the available and willing working age population who are being wasted in one way or another – either unemployed or underemployed. The fact that the broad underutlisation rate fell is not a cause for celebration because it was driven by the decline in participation, which just means hidden unemployment rose. Australia is not near full employment despite the claims by the mainstream commentators.

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