• Commentary,  Employment & Unemployment,  Macroeconomics,  Wages

    The False Doctrine of the ‘Labour Shortage’

    A common argument that Canada faces a severe ‘labour shortage’ is being invoked to justify regressive policies in many areas: including higher interest rates, record-high (but exploitive) immigration programs, and pushing back the normal retirement age. In this column, originally published in the Toronto Star, Centre for Future Work Director Jim Stanford shows that Canada has not ‘run out’ of workers. Forcibly creating a cushion of surplus labour (through policies to compel labour supply or restrict labour demand) will make life easier for corporate HR managers. But they will undermine the life changes of millions. Humans are not Widgets, and we aren’t in ‘Short Supply’ By Jim Stanford Busy people…

  • Commentary,  Employment & Unemployment,  Inflation,  Macroeconomics

    Is the Economy “Hot”? Or is it Cold, and Getting Colder?

    The Bank of Canada is widely expected to increase its policy interest rate again this week, for the eighth time in the last 10 months. Media and financial market commentary on its decision has made numerous throwaway references to how Canada’s economy is still “running hot,” and that i why a rate hike is needed.  This common claim is surprising, and not consistent with economic evidence. Canada’s economy is not “running hot” by any concrete measure. Here are six: Final domestic demand in Canada has been weakening for over a year, and was shrinking in the third quarter of 2022 (latest data). Were it not for the export sector (with…

  • Commentary,  Finance,  Inflation

    Profits, Not Wages, Have Driven Canadian Inflation

    Every January, the Globe and Mail newspaper publishes a fascinating set of charts (curated by journalist Jason Kirby) prepared by Canadian economists, with their insights into economic trends likely to shape the following year. Centre for Future Work Director Jim Stanford was invited again to participate in the collection. He submitted the following chart and text, highlighting the dramatic increases in corporate profits in Canada that have been the dominant distributional outcome of recent inflation. In recent months, the Bank of Canada has focused on the labour market as the main culprit behind higher inflation: The unemployment rate is too low, wages are rising too fast and this so-called “overheating”…

  • Commentary,  Finance,  Macroeconomics

    When Will We Learn? Speculation is no Way to Build a Real Economy

    History repeated itself last year in financial markets: several high-flying ventures that once generated a frenzy among financial speculators, came crashing back to earth in the face of higher interest rates, fears of recession, and a rush to the exits by more prescient investors. In this commentary, originally published in the Toronto Star, Centre for Future Work Director Jim Stanford reviews five speculative bubbles that popped in 2022. The most dangerous, from a macroeconomic perspective, is the accelerating downturn in Canadian housing prices – as rising debt charges squeeze prospective buyers. A major downturn in housing will have big impacts on real employment and spending. The common lesson from these…

  • Commentary,  Employment & Unemployment,  Macroeconomics

    Economic Outlook for 2023: Soft Landing or Hard Impact?

    In this year-in-review column, originally published in the Toronto Star, Centre for Future Work Director Jim Stanford reflects on the turbulent economic events of 2022 – dominated by the rise of global inflation, and a dramatic shift in monetary policy in Canada and many other countries. The outlook for 2023, unfortunately, will likely be determined by the side-effects of that harsh monetary policy medicine. Workers are Being Sacrificed to a Doctrine that Intentionally Keeps Unemployment High by Jim Stanford Economic events during 2022 were dominated by the rise of global inflation, surging to the fastest pace in decades. Economists had thought this spectre was long dead and buried, after years…

  • Commentary,  Inflation

    CBC Podcast on Power, Profits, and Inflation

    CBC’s top-rated podcast series, Front Burner, recently featured a 30-minute interview with Centre for Future Work Director Jim Stanford on the continuing debate about whether corporate profits have contributed to recent Canadian inflation. The interview responds to recent claims of supermarket CEOs (in their appearance before a Parliamentary inquiry) that their profit margins on sales are modest and stable. In fact, compared to pre-pandemic norms, profit margins have grown by about three-quarters – and the mass of after-tax profits collected in the food retail sector has more than doubled. The podcast also considered the role of record profits in driving painful price increases in other sectors of the economy, too:…

  • Commentary,  Inflation

    Yes, Virginia, Supermarket Profits HAVE Increased

    The following commentary was first published by Centre for Future Work Director Jim Stanford at the Progressive Economics Forum’s blog site, and then republished by Heterodox Economics Blogs and covered by rabble.ca. Supermarket executives were up on Parliament Hill last week, appearing before the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food’s inquiry into food inflation grocery chain profits. They repeated the now-familiar argument that supermarkets have not caused food inflation, they have merely passed along higher input costs to their customers; their profit margins have been stable, it is claimed. Don’t believe them. Here are a few data points on the argument that the chains haven’t actually profited from inflation, since their…

  • Commentary,  Employment & Unemployment,  Macroeconomics

    Latest Interest Rate Hike Increases Risk of Recession

    On December 7, the Bank of Canada increased its policy interest rate for the seventh time since March, by another super-sized increment of 50 basis points (0.50%). The rate is now set at 4.25%. The Bank of Canada has been among the most aggressive of any OECD central bank in lifting interest rates to slow economic activity. Centre for Future Work Director Jim Stanford was interviewed about the Bank’s decision in numerous media outlets. In this segment on CBC News Network, anchor Andrew Nichols asked about alternatives to higher interest rates for controlling inflation: Another CBC story, by Stephanie Hogan, provided a roundup of differing views (including Jim’s) on the…

  • Commentary,  Employment & Unemployment,  Macroeconomics

    Canadian Domestic Economy Fell Into Recession in the Autumn

    New economic data  from Statistics Canada, covering the third quarter of 2022 (July through September) indicate that the recession feared by many forecasters has already started in Canada’s domestic economy. After a year of rapid slowing, real domestic demand (excluding international trade) shrank in the third quarter at a 0.6% annualized rate. After months of rapid interest rate increases imposed by the Bank of Canada to slow job-creation and economic activity, many components of domestic spending (especially those sensitive to interest rates) are now contracting. Household consumption, residential building activity, business machinery and equipment investment, and public sector investment all declined in the third quarter. Despite the contraction in domestic…

  • Commentary,  Employment & Unemployment,  Inflation,  Macroeconomics

    Saying the Quiet Bits Out Loud: Bank of Canada Aims to Raise Unemployment

    It will seem irrational to most Canadians, but the surprising truth is that the Bank of Canada is explicitly trying to increase unemployment. The Bank’s Governor Tiff Macklem recently claimed that the unemployment rate in Canada was too low: “unsustainable,” in his words, and must be increased by using high interest rates to slow down economic activity and reduce employment. This idea – of using unemployment as a deliberate tool to undermine wages and protect business profit margins – has been implicit within orthodox monetary policy for many years. But it’s both rare and angering to hear that made explicit as the goal of economic policy. In this commentary, originally…