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The labour market barely hanging on

Today’s Australian Bureau of Statistics Labour Force data confirms the trends that have been evident in the broader data series in recent months that the economy has slowed dramatically but hasn’t yet crashed. While unemployment is rising the main worry is the rapidly increasing underemployment. It is also been a common theme in recent months that firms are hoarding labour. While the new data series that the ABS has published today (hours worked) suggests that this is occuring, most of the hours adjustment in the labour market is arising from the loss of full-time employment in manufacturing and elsewhere. In other words, it is a sectoral story rather than a within-firm story. So while the unemployment rate is stable, there is nothing to cheer about in this data.

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How do budget deficits finance saving?

I am often sent E-mails asking me to explain succinctly (what my other explanations are not!) how public deficits finance saving. What does it mean? How does it work in a macroeconomic system? What is the difference between automatic stabilisers and discretionary budget dynamics? What would have happened if the government had not have increased the growth in spending? All these sorts of questions. So this short blog – to make up for yesterday’s ridiculously long blog – will cover those issues. It should clear up any outstanding issues about why deficits are important to underwriting growth.

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Debates in modern monetary macro …

Yesterday, regular commentator JKH wrote a very long comment where he/she challenged some of the statements and logic that modern monetary theorists including myself have been making. While I don’t want to elevate one comment to any special status – all comments are good and add to the debate in some way – this particular comment does make statements that many readers will find themselves asking. In that sense it is illustrative of more general principles, points etc and so today’s blog provides a detailed answer to JKH and tries to make it clear where the differences lie. Some of these differences are at the level of nuance but others are more fundamental.

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Economists might usefully desist

In November last year, during a visit to the LSE, the Queen of England (and Australia to our eternal shame) asked some pointy heads why “if these things were so large, how come everyone missed them?” in relation to the apparent inability of the mainstream economics profession to foresee the crisis. Apparently, the Royal Academy then called a special workshop to discuss this and came up with an answer which they then relayed post haste … as “Your Majesty’s most humble and obedient servants” to Liz. The whole affair represents the standard massive denial that defines mainstream macroeconomics. There are no saving graces. It would be useful if they just desisted for a while and went and played gin rummy.

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The rising future burden on our kids

The public debate is constantly distorted by claims that cannot be substantiated. One such claim is that the current period of budget deficits is building a stock of future claims on the well-being of the future generation – our kids. Accordingly, the neo-liberal deficit terrorists claim that the best thing we can do for the future generation is to avoid running deficits. My view is that we have been imposing a huge future burden on our children but this would be larger if we tried to run surpluses now. In fact, the years of surpluses exacted a huge toll on our children’s prospects that they will have to endure for years to come.

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Why doesn’t this attract headlines?

Why doesn’t this article get headlines in the newspapers? Today I read a recent article – Why Are Banks Holding So Many Excess Reserves? – from two researchers at the New York branch of the Federal Reserve Bank. It is obvious that the authors understand much more about the modern monetary system than most of the journalists, economists and politicians who make so-called informed commentary about such matters. Three messages emerge: (a) bank reserves play an important role in the conduct of interest rate policy and budget deficits put downward pressure on interest rates; (b) the money multiplier conception of economics is inapplicable to a modern monetary system; and (c) the current build-up of bank reserves will not be inflationary. I thought that it would be nice for you to read this stuff from someone other than billy blog (and my fellow modern money travellers!).

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Our PM’s second essay – 1/10 (being generous)

The Australian Prime Minister released his second essay over the weekend, in which he outlines his vision for a modern Australia steered towards new levels of prosperity and equity by his government. Well my reading of the 6098 words is that far from presenting an acceptable vision for the future, they rather, outline how his Federal Government has chosen to continue the abandonment of full employment and impose huge costs from the cyclical downturn on the most disadvantaged workers and their families in our communities for years to come.

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SBS Insight program tonight – The Battlers

This afternoon I am off to Brisbane to appear in tonight’s SBS TV Insight Program, which is focusing on unemployment. The program airs live from 19:30 tonight on SBS One. The on-site location for tonight’s show is Logan City, which is south of Brisbane on the way to the Gold Coast. In the work I did with Scott Baum at Griffith University earlier this year developing an Employment Vulnerability index, we identified the Logan City area as having a concentration suburbs which we considered to be at high risk of job loss. So SBS decided to conduct a ground level exploration of the sorts of considerations that expose a region to job loss and to develop narratives that inform us of how people in battling areas cope with economic downturn. While the topic is depressing it is excellent that one of our national TV broadcasters is actually elevating it to national importance.

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