Reasons for falling UK unemployment

unemployment-total-uk

Despite weak economic growth of the past decade, UK unemployment has fallen quicker than we might expect.  It appears the natural rate of unemployment has fallen and despite record employment levels, wage pressures remain muted. Different reasons for this fall in unemployment include – low productivity, more flexible labour markets, disguised unemployment (underemployment) and growth …

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Threats to UK economy

real-gdp-uk-2000-2019-actual-real

Since the credit crisis of 2008, the UK economy has experienced structural weakness of Low economic growth Very poor productivity growth Weak demand Unbalanced economy geared towards consumption and low levels of investment. In addition to these structural weaknesses, the UK economy in 2020 now faces real threats from A hard Brexit Risk of slowdown …

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SWOT analysis – Examples

swot analysis

SWOT analysis is looking at a businesses – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats. SWOT analysis is useful for a business looking at strategic planning for the future. How can the firm survive, grow and remain relevant. Examples of strengths Current profitable orders. Existing brand loyalty and brand recognition Loyal customer base Mailing list and details of …

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Sugar tax debate

sugar-tax-fat-tax

Excess consumption of sugar is linked to several health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. Consumption of sugar imposes costs on individuals (lower life expectancy) and the rest of society (higher health care costs + lower productivity). A tax on sugar would discourage consumption and raise tax revenue to fund improved health care. …

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The throw-away economy

broken-tin-opener

The throw-away economy refers to the prevalence of consumer goods which only last for a short period of time. When they stop working / no longer relevant, we throw them away and replace them with new goods.

This is in contrast to an economy where resources are more scare – and if a good is purchased, we expect to make it last a considerable time – repairing if necessary.

For example, in the past, if our socks had a hole, we would sew them up (‘darning’ your socks). But, these days, if socks get a hole, it is more convenient to throw them away and buy some cheap socks instead.

If average wages are £10 an hour. Why spend 30 minutes sewing your socks, when you can buy a new pair for £3? In the past, wages were much lower compared to prices. If you only earnt £1 an hour, then it is worth sewing your socks to save buying a new pair for £3.

Therefore, rising real wages make a throw-away economy more likely.

Repair shops

TV repair
TV repair. Photo Katie Chao and Ben Muessig – Flickr

 

In the past, there were many TV repair shops – if your tv or electronic goods broke down, you would try to have them fixed. In today’s world, if a TV broke down, we would be liable to throw away the TV and buy a new one. It is not so expensive and electronic goods are always offering new features. After a couple of years, your electronic goods can feel ‘outdated’ pretty quick. I have a stack of CDs I don’t play in CD players any more.

The problem of the tin openers

broken-tin-opener
Broken tin opener from a Pound Shop

 

The inspiration for this post has been the number of tin-openers we have got through in the past 12 months. We have bought four tin openers, all of which have ceased working after a short period of use. In each case, we have thrown it away and bought a new one. The first two were from Sainsburys and Asda. They cost about £4 and looked fairly robust. But, after a few weeks, they stopped working properly, and then failed completely. My lodger uses the tin-opener most, so I told him since I paid £5 for a tin-opener and it stopped working, he might as well go get one from a Pound shop. The first tin opener did open one can of Heinz soup then it snapped. 99p to open one tin! That is called a false economy!

He took it back to the 99p shop and the workers laughed. They obviously got returned tin openers all the time. He got a replacement, but that broke straight-away, even before opening a tin.

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Long-Term inflation forecasts

Originally published in March 2015. Current inflation rate (Feb 2020) is 1.3%. I was 0.7% out.

But there was no skill in predicting inflation of 2%. If Ii had to predict inflation for 2025, I would predict the same = 2%.


Reader’s Question: What will be the inflation rate in 2020?

Firstly, I can’t resist a few economics ‘jokes’

  • “An economist is an expert who will know tomorrow why the things he predicted yesterday didn’t happen today. “
  • “The First Law of Economists: For every economist, there exists an equal and opposite economist.”
  • The Second Law of Economists: They’re both wrong.
  • Q:Why did God create economists ?
  • A: In order to make weather forecasters look good.

To be honest, it is very difficult to make inflation forecasts for more than 12-18 months time. I feel that if you make inflation forecasts for 5 years in advance, you are really just guessing.

There are so many different scenarios which could happen in the next five years, which we can’t envisage at the moment.

uk-RPI-inflation-1948-2014

My Guess for inflation in 2020

After making a sufficiently long list of disclaimers, I’m happy to stick my neck out on the line and make the rather unexciting prediction that inflation will be 2%. (which happens to the government’s target for CPI inflation). The reason for this prediction is:

Generally, we have become quite good at keeping inflation low. The peak in inflation in 2010 to 5% is misleading, because it was just temporary cost-push inflation in the middle of a recession. Since the 1980s, we haven’t seen any significant demand-pull inflation.

Inflation is more likely to be low because:

  • The Bank of England was made independent in 1997. (Previously government set interest rates). Independent Central Banks are willing to take politically unpopular decisions to raise interest rates before an election reducing chance of boom and bust. Independent Central Banks are judged on their success in keeping inflation low, so they don’t want to lose their ‘low inflation credibility’.
  • Inflation expectations have fallen. It would take a big change in the economy (like the cost-push inflation of 1970s) to really shift inflation expectations upwards.
  • There is a strong will to reduce inflation. For example, Europe has tolerated very high levels of unemployment and prolonged economic stagnation – but they wouldn’t tolerate high inflation. I don’t see this changing, there is a very strong consensus on keeping inflation low amongst mainstream economists and politicians.
  • Continued improvements in technology and greater competitiveness of markets (e.g. see how competitive supermarkets have become in past few years.)

The greater concern is that we entering a period of disinflation – very low inflation, below the government’s target of 2%. Experience of the past few years and the experience of Japan suggests that these periods of very low inflation can be self-fulfilling and take a long time to get out of.

Long Range Inflation Forecasts may try to take these issues into account.

  • Are we entering a new era of macroeconomic stability, where central banks have finally mastered the art of managing the economy? The medium-term prospects for greater economic stability are quite promising in this regard. People are already suggesting that the boom and bust economic cycle are a thing of the past in the UK
  • Will a shortage of raw materials cause cost-push inflation? or will alternatives be found?
  • To what extent will new technology continue to lower costs?
  • Will global warming cause a shortage of food and water, therefore pushing up prices of basic necessities?
  • Will overpopulation cause demand to rise faster than supply

Read moreLong-Term inflation forecasts

Different types of economic policies

policies-for-economic-growth

A list of different types of economic policies. Monetary policy Fiscal policy Supply-side policies Microeconomic policies – tax, subsidies, price controls, housing market, regulation of monopolies Labour market policies Tariff/trade policies Demand-side policies Policies for influencing aggregate demand and expenditure in the economy. This mainly involves fiscal and monetary policy. Fiscal policy Government changes to …

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Do tax cuts pay for themselves?

us-federal-deficit

Some economists, such as Arthur Laffer, argue that there are circumstances when cutting tax leads to either increased tax revenue or tax revenues stay the same. The logic is related to the incentive effects of tax cuts on productivity and growth. If income tax rates are too high, then workers may be discouraged to work. …

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