Archive for the ‘What the figures show’ Category

The world-wide growth in house prices

April 27th, 2015 Comments off
  • Since 1900 house prices in advanced economies have increased threefole. The overwhelming hare of this increase occurred  in the second half of the 20th century.

    Since 1900 house prices in advanced economies have increased threefole. The overwhelming hare of this increase occurred in the second half of the 20th century.

    house prices australia

    No price like home: Global house prices 1870-2012 – How have house prices evolved over the long‐run? This paper presents annual house prices for 14 advanced economies since 1870. Based on extensive data collection, we show that real house prices stayed constant from the 19th to the mid‐20th century, but rose strongly during the second half of the 20th century. Land prices, not replacement costs, are the key to understanding the trajectory of house prices. Rising land prices explain about 80 percent of the global house price boom that has taken place since World War II. Higher land values have pushed up wealth‐to‐income ratios in recent decades.

  • Nobody Said That – Imagine yourself as a regular commentator on public affairs — maybe a paid pundit, maybe an supposed expert in some area, maybe just an opinionated billionaire. You weigh in on a major policy initiative that’s about to happen, making strong predictions of disaster. … But nothing you predicted actually comes to pass. What do you do? You might admit that you were wrong, and try to figure out why. But almost nobody does that; we live in an age of unacknowledged error. … Refusing to accept responsibility for past errors is a serious character flaw in one’s private life. It rises to the level of real wrongdoing when policies that affect millions of lives are at stake.
  • 8 Obama Jokes That Stood Out From The White House Correspondents Dinner


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  • Poetry is going extinct, government data show
  • Why So Many Americans Feel So Powerless
  • Can we predict happiness? – What makes us happy? Well-being researchers have identified many variables related to happiness, but we still don’t know exactly how the events of our daily lives combine to influence how we feel from moment to moment. People should get happier when good things happen, but clearly this is not the whole story. We designed a study to investigate the relationship between rewards and happiness. We brought people into the lab and asked them repeatedly about their happiness as they chose between safe and risky monetary options. Risky choices were gambles with equal probabilities (like a coin toss) of a better or worse outcome. If they chose to gamble on a given trial, they then found out whether they won or lost. Based on the data, we developed a mathematical equation to predict how self-reported happiness depends on past events. We found that happiness depends not on how well things are going, but whether things are going better or worse than expected.

    Happiness depends on safe choices (certain rewards, CR), expectations associated with risky choices (expected value, EV), and whether the outcomes of risky choices were better or worse than expected. This final variable is called a reward prediction error (RPE), the difference between the experienced outcome and the expectation. The neurotransmitter dopamine is thought to represent these signals which might explain how people learn about rewards (if you get more than you expected, next time you should expect more).

    Happiness depends on safe choices (certain rewards, CR), expectations associated with risky choices (expected value, EV), and whether the outcomes of risky choices were better or worse than expected. This final variable is called a reward prediction error (RPE), the difference between the experienced outcome and the expectation. The neurotransmitter dopamine is thought to represent these signals which might explain how people learn about rewards (if you get more than you expected, next time you should expect more).

Part timing Australia – the declining full-time jobs

February 17th, 2015 Comments off

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures suggest that Australia is becoming a part-time economy. The trend Labour Force figures for January show that a record high of 30.73% of jobs were part time. Back in February 1978 when the ABS series began the proportion was only 15.17%


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A real health cost crisis to think about – Médecins Sans Frontières on immunisation

January 21st, 2015 Comments off

The right shot

  • Rocketing vaccine cost warning – “The price of life-saving vaccines has skyrocketed leaving some countries struggling to fully immunise children, Medecins Sans Frontieres warns. A report by the charity says there has been a 68-fold increase in prices between 2001 and 2014. It accused the pharmaceutical industry of overcharging and highlighted cases where rich western countries were getting a better rate than poor ones. Industry said its pricing reflected the cost of manufacture.”

price to immunise


  • Hating Good Government – “… most self-proclaimed conservatives are actually reactionaries. That is, they’re defenders of traditional hierarchy — the kind of hierarchy that is threatened by any expansion of government, even (or perhaps especially) when that expansion makes the lives of ordinary citizens better and more secure.”

oecd employment rate

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China’s falling growth rate enough to drive iron ore producers to drink?

January 20th, 2015 Comments off

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The significance of the wine barrels illustrating this Chinese government newsagency tweet on China’s falling growth rates escapes me but the story it points to might drive some iron ore producers to drink.

BEIJING, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) — China’s economy grew 7.4 percent in 2014, in line with market expectations and registering the weakest expansion in 24 years, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said Tuesday.

The reading was slightly below the government target of around 7.5 percent for the year, as authorities are at pains to transform the economy onto a more sustainable track while tackling a housing slowdown, softening domestic demand and weak global recovery.

Last year, the country’s gross domestic product reached 63.65 trillion yuan (10.4 trillion U.S. dollars). Growth in the fourth quarter came in at 7.3 percent, flat with the rate seen in the third.

“The economy is maintaining steady operation under the new normal, with positive trends of stable growth, optimized structure, enhanced quality and improved social welfare,” noted Ma Jiantang, head of the NBS at a press conference.

In 2014, China’s industrial output grew 8.3 percent, down from the 9.7-percent growth seen in 2013, while growth of China’s fixed-asset investment slowed to 15.7 percent. Retail sales went up 12 percent to 26.24 trillion yuan, the NBS data showed.

Another sign of an Australian economy trudging sideways

January 19th, 2015 Comments off


Trend estimates: The December 2014 trend estimate (92 618) has decreased by 0.1% when compared with November 2014. The trend estimate has now decreased by 0.1% for five consecutive months.
Seasonally adjusted estimates: The December 2014 seasonally adjusted estimate (94 903) has increased by 3.0% when compared with November 2014.

  • Cover of darkness – The cypherpunks are winning the second crypto-war against government spies. What will happen when everyone is anonymous?
  • Oasis or Mirage? Jordan’s Unlikely Stability in a Changing Middle East – “Jordan’s stability and security are not figments of the imagination, especially considering the revolutions, civil wars and endemic terrorism that seem to have afflicted most of the country’s neighbors. Yet the calm may not be sustainable, as Jordan confronts its own continuing struggles over reform and change; faces seemingly countless threats in terms of its internal and external security; and attempts to deal with its own economic crises and challenging energy needs.” (Sign in required)
  • Death rate drops when top heart surgeons are away – “Among the most severe cases of cardiac arrest, 70 per cent of those admitted when no cardiology conference was taking place died within 30 days. But among those admitted when expert cardiologists were away at meetings, the corresponding death rate was 60 per cent (JAMA Internal Medicine). The results suggest that for the most seriously ill heart patients, the risks of emergency interventions such as artery widening may outweigh the benefits …”
  • The Hemingway Law of Motion: Gradually, then Suddenly – ‘Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises, which is available various places around the web like here, includes the following snippet of dialogue:

    “How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.

    “Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”

    Many economists will recognize this as a version of an apercu offered a number of times over the years by the prominent macroeconomist Rudiger Dornbusch, who liked to say (for example, in this interview about Mexico’s economic crisis in the 1990s):

    “The crisis takes a much longer time coming than you think, and then it happens much faster than you would have thought.”

    What I am dubbing the Hemingway Law of Motion clearly has wide applicability.’

An economy sliding sideways

January 15th, 2015 Comments off

No evidence in today’s Australian Bureau of Statistics employment figures of a healthily growing economy. I’ll settle on the aggregate monthly hours worked figures to tell the story.

monthly hours worked


It has been a real sideways slide.

This May’s budget will be a difficult event for Joe Hockey to negotiate.

No evidence that economic growth is anything but moderate

November 6th, 2014 Comments off

You can quibble abut the accuracy of the estimates of employment and unemployment by the Australian Bureau of Statistics if you want to but it is hard to fine any evidence that economic growth is anything but moderate.



And if you don’t like the ABS figures, then take a look at the lterntive measures provided by the Morgan Poll.


So you think we are doing it tough. Well the figures say Australians continue to be the world’s wealthiest people

October 16th, 2014 Comments off

The annual survey by Credit Suisse continues to show that Australia has the world’s highest median wealth per capita adult. The Global Wealth Report 2014  shows Australia at the top of the list for the fifth consecutive year with wealth of $US 225,000, far above Belgium in second place. On the measure of average wealth Australia comes in second behind Switzerland.



Credit Suisse says about Australia:

Household wealth in Australia grew at a fast pace between 2000 and 2014 in US dollar terms, except for a short interruption in 2008. The average annual growth rate has been 11%, with about a third of the rise due to exchange rate appreciation. Using constant exchange rates, wealth has grown on average by 4.4% per annum since 2007, compared with a 9.2% rate over 2000–2007. Despite this recent slowdown, Australia’s wealth per adult in 2014 is USD 430,800, the second highest in the world after Switzerland. Its median wealth of USD 225,400 is the highest in the world.


Interestingly, the composition of household wealth in Australia is heavily skewed towards real assets, which averaged USD 319,700 and form 60% of gross household assets. This
average level of real assets is the second highest in the world after Norway. In part, it reflects a large endowment of land and natural resources relative to population, but it is also a result of high urban real estate prices.

Only 6% of Australians have net worth below USD 10,000, which can be compared to 29% in the USA and 70% for the world as a whole. Average debt amounts to 20% of gross assets. The proportion of those with wealth above USD100,000 is the highest of any country – eight times the world average. With 1,783,000 people in the top 1% of global wealth holders, Australia accounts for 3.8% of this wealthy group, despite having just 0.4% of the world’s adult population.



Not much joy however you look at the unemployment figures

October 9th, 2014 Comments off

However you look at the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures for employment and unemployment there is little to be cheerful about. Forget the concerns about seasonal adjustment. The original numbers are clear enough. This year is worse, month by month, than the previous three.



When it comes to the aggregate number of hours being worked there is no sign of much growth either.


With employment and unemployment go with the trend and it’s not good

September 11th, 2014 Comments off

Much ado about nothing today as the pundits try to make sense of the employment and unemployment figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. I’m happy to stick with the trend figures for what is always a volatile series. And the trend indicates that economic growth is just enough to stop things getting much worse and that’s about it.

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Perhaps the ABS figures for total hours of paid work give the best indication.

11-09-2014 hoursworked

Over the last year the increase in hours worked is a meagre 0.56% and that is less than the increase in the number of people available to enter the labour force. Clearly it is not a time to be reducing government spending.

Living longer with mum and dad

July 12th, 2014 Comments off

The only evidence I have is anecdotal but these US figures seem to ring true about Australia in my experience:

12-07-2014 livingathome

This is how a slump becomes self-perpetuating. Young people moved back home when the economy cratered, and stayed there when it didn’t bounce back. There just weren’t enough jobs, let alone well-paying ones, for them to afford to move out—especially if they had student loans to pay back. But all of these micro decisions to set up camp in their parents’ basements had a macro effect: there wasn’t as much demand for new housing. And that’s been a big part of why the recovery has been so underwhelming.


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Australian official job vacancy figures show some reason for optimism

June 26th, 2014 Comments off

A slight upturn in the Australian Bureau of Statistics quarterly figures for job vacancies. Total job vacancies in May 2014 were 146,100, an increase of 2.1% from February 2014. The number of job vacancies in the private sector was 135,000 in May 2014, an increase of 2.0% from February 2014. The number of job vacancies in the public sector was 11,200 in May 2014, an increase of 4.3% from February 2014.

job vacancieschart

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An analysis by Westpac also released today of new jobs created suggests Australia’s impressive jobs growth this year is somewhat undermined by details showing the gains have been concentrated to just a few sectors. New jobs are concentrated in the services, construction and real estate sectors.

26-06-2014 westpacjobcreation1There has been a stagnation in jobs created for many years outside the mining, utilities, education, health, public and business services.

26-06-2014 industry divergence

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OECD reports how market income inequality rose considerably and other news and views for Thursday 19 June

June 19th, 2014 Comments off

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  • Rising inequality: youth and poor fall further behind – Insights from the OECD Income Distribution Database, June 2014 – “… market income inequality rose by 1 percentage point or more in 20 OECD countries between 2007 and 2011/12 (orange bars in Figure 1). The largest increases occurred in those countries hit hardest by the crisis: Spain, Ireland, Greece, Estonia
    and Iceland but also in France and Slovenia… By contrast, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Israel and Sweden recently reversed the trend and experienced a fall in market income inequality during 2011.”
  • Argentina says next bond payment ‘impossible’, default looms
  • Post-Crash Economics – Robert Skidelsky, Professor Emeritus of Political Economy at Warwick University and author of a three-volume biography of John Maynard Keynes, writes how we may be witnessing the beginning of the end of the neoliberal capitalist consensus that has prevailed throughout the West since the 1980s. “… mainstream economics is a pitifully thin distillation of historical wisdom on the topics that it addresses. It should be applied to whatever practical problems it can solve; but its tools and assumptions should always be in creative tension with other beliefs concerning human wellbeing and flourishing. What students are taught today certainly does not deserve its imperial status in social thought.”
  • Bill Shorten seeks to censure PM over budget ‘honesty’ – The Guardian’s Katharine Murphy summarises the political day in Canberra.
  • Australia won’t describe east Jerusalem as ‘occupied’ – and is wrong to do so – “Australia’s new view is starkly at odds with the true status of east Jerusalem under international law – and to dismiss ‘historical events’ as unhelpful is astonishingly foolish.”

The politics of McMansions and urban enclaves and other news and views for Saturday 14 June

June 14th, 2014 Comments off



  • Political Polarization and Personal Life – Liberals and conservatives are divided over more than just politics. Those on the opposite ends of the ideological spectrum disagree about everything from the type of community in which they prefer to live to the type of people they would welcome into their families. It is an enduring stereotype – conservatives prefer suburban McMansions while liberals like urban enclaves – but one that is grounded in reality. Given the choice, three-quarters (75%) of consistent conservatives say they would opt to live in a community where “the houses are larger and farther apart, but schools, stores and restaurants are several miles away,” and just 22% say they’d choose to live where “the houses are smaller and closer to each other, but schools, stores and restaurants are within walking distance.” The preferences of consistent liberals are almost the exact inverse, with 77% preferring the smaller house closer to amenities, and just 21% opting for more square footage farther away.
  • Tract Issued By Theologians Takes On Money In Politics
  • The World (fizzy drink) Cup 2014 – From The Lancet – “To the dismay of public health experts, it has become common to see fast-food and sugary drinks companies sponsoring major sporting events. The 2014 FIFA World Cup, which started this week in Brazil, is no exception … Supporting physical activity and healthy eating efforts should be a natural link for a sporting federation. Kicking the unhealthy sponsorship habit, FIFA, would be an excellent start.”
  • Can A Female Politician Be Insulted Without It Being Sexist? –  The talk on the streets of Brazil is the host country’s resounding victory over Croatia on the World Cup pitch. But online, debate is raging over whether or not chants directed against Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff at the stadium where she was attending yesterday’s match were sexist. After the opening ceremony, fans briefly started jeering “Hey, Dilma, go f*** yourself in the a**! Hey, FIFA, go f*** yourself in the a**!”

14-06-2014 bukharajuice

Employment in Australia standing still

June 12th, 2014 Comments off

At least things are not getting worse on the employment front. Today’s Australian Bureau of Statistics Labour Force report for May shows the trend rate for employment edging ever so slowly up and that for unemployment on a slight downward slope.


The relatively stagnant nature of a labour market where full time and part time employment fluctuate considerably from month to month is perhaps best illustrated by the trend of aggregate monthly hours worked. It has ben virtually flat since late 2011.


No inflation problem on the Australian wages front

May 21st, 2014 Comments off

No signs in this morning’s Australian Bureau of Statistics wage price index figures that wage rises are going to create any inflationary problem. The trend index and the seasonally adjusted index for Australia rose 2.6% through the year to the March quarter 2014.



In the March quarter 2014, the Northern Territory recorded the largest quarterly rise of 0.9% and the Australian Capital Territory the smallest rise of 0.2%.


Quarterly rises in South Australia (0.6%), Western Australia (0.6%) and the Australian Capital Territory (0.2%) were smaller in the current quarter than in the March quarter 2013. All other states and territories recorded larger rises compared to the quarterly changes the year before.


Rises through the year ranged from 2.3% for Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory to 3.2% for South Australia.


Rises in the original indexes through the year to the March quarter 2014 at the industry level ranged from 1.9% for Professional, scientific and technical services to 3.3% for both Electricity, gas, water and waste services and Arts and recreation services.


Australian housing prices close to the trend

May 13th, 2014 Comments off

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures out today show capital city housing prices continue rising back on trend. Things have certainly recovered since the dips of recent years.


An increase in Australian home renters

April 9th, 2014 Comments off

More Australians are renting the home they live in and the cost of doing so increased strongly from 2006 to 2011. Australian Bureau of Statistics figures this week show that the median weekly household rent rose to $285 from $191 in 2006, an increase of 49.2%. Overall, rental costs have increased twice as much as wages; the median weekly household income increased from $1,027 in 2006 to $1,234 in 2011, up 20.2%.

Nearly three in ten Australian households (29.6%) rented their dwelling at the time of the 2011 Census. There was a larger increase in rented homes between 2006 and 2011 compared with homes owned with a mortgage. The proportion of rented homes increased almost two percentage points (from 28.1% in 2006), whereas homes owned with a mortgage increased by less than one percentage point (from 34.1% in 2006 to 34.9% in 2011), and the proportion of households that owned their dwelling outright decreased (from 34.0% in 2006 to 32.1% in 2011).

2014-04-09_ownedbuyingrentedThe ABS figures show that rental costs increased by about ten percentage points more than mortgage repayments. The median monthly mortgage repayment in Australia rose from $1,300 in 2006 to $1,800 in 2011, an increase of 38.5 per cent, while the median weekly rent payment increased by 49.2 per cent.

In 2011, the Northern Territory recorded the highest home rental rate of all states and territories, with nearly half of all homes being rented (49.1%). Tasmania and Victoria had the lowest home rental rates of 26.4% and 26.5% respectively. Home rental rates increased in all states and territories between 2006 and 2011. Queensland had the largest increase from 31.1% in 2006 to 33.2% in 2011, followed by Western Australia from 27.2% in 2006 to 29.2% in 2011. New South Wales had the smallest increase from 29.5% in 2006 to 30.1% in 2011.