Deficits, debt in The Monday Briefing

As good as it gets

Building with seedling
The global recovery has moved up a gear in the last year. The year 2018 is likely to be the best year for world growth in seven years. But this is a mature recovery and, at the risk of sounding like a kill joy, this is about the time you’d expect the economic cycle to start rolling over. For the rich western economies the second half of 2018 is likely to mark the peak in growth.

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Posted on 23/04/2018

Technology and productivity - a complicated relationship

Graphic of planet and charts
There are numerous explanations for why technology is no longer boosting productivity in the way it did in the twentieth century. The US economist, Robert Gordon, argues that today’s technologies are less productivity-enhancing than the great inventions of the past. The opposing view is that technology is still working its magic, but in ways, such as improving the quality of goods and services, which are poorly captured by the statistics.

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Posted on 16/04/2018

Brexit transition deal boosts UK business sentiment

Compass_CFO Survey
The latest Deloitte survey of UK Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) released this morning shows that business confidence has edged up and is running not far off its long-term average. CFOs seem to have shrugged off weakness in equity markets and concerns about trade with perceptions of uncertainty dropping to the lowest levels since the spring of 2016, before the EU referendum. This finding fits with our own “Worry Index” which tracks newspaper references to terms relating to uncertainty and risk. It dropped to a ten-year low in the first quarter.

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Posted on 09/04/2018

Can labour scarcity drive productivity?

Cityscape
To the bafflement of economists Britain’s economic recovery has been accompanied by growing demand for labour and falling wages. Since 2007 the number of people in work in the UK has risen by 2.7 million, an increase of 9%. Over the same time earnings, after allowing for inflation, have fallen by about 2.5%.

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Posted on 03/04/2018

Measuring happiness

A happy man sitting on a chair
The idea of measuring national happiness has been around for decades and was pioneered by the government of Bhutan in the 1970s. Since the global financial crisis interest in measuring, and understanding, what drives happiness, has risen.

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Posted on 30/03/2018

The meaning of Mr Trump’s import tariffs

Monday Briefing_Metal pipes
Donald Trump’s scepticism about free trade is longstanding and was a prominent feature of his 2016 presidential campaign. Such was the appeal of Mr Trump’s protectionist stance that his opponent and former free trade advocate Hillary Clinton found herself renouncing the Trans-Pacific Partnership she had once promoted.

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Posted on 19/03/2018

Money for Nothing

Monday_Briefing_pound sign
In the aftermath of the financial crisis poverty, inequality and social inclusion have become high profile issues. To its adherents, and there are many, the solution is for the state to provide adults with a Universal Basic Income (UBI) to cover their basic needs, allowing them to earn whatever they wanted in addition. Implementing a UBI would represent a profound change in the role of the government and its effect on peoples’ lives.

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Posted on 12/03/2018

UK consumer: good and bad news

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In a sign of the tough trading conditions on British high streets two well-known retail names, Toys R Us and Maplin, fell into administration last week.

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Posted on 05/03/2018

What’s the value of a degree?

Graduate
Economists don’t agree about much, but there is a strong consensus that education is a powerful enabler of growth and living standards. In the last century, the number of years people spend in education has risen inexorably. Today better education and training are offering the answer to challenges as diverse as mass automation, low productivity and lack of social mobility.

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Posted on 26/02/2018

Assessing America’s tax reforms

1 cent
Last December the US Congress passed a bill overhauling the tax code, the first major tax reform since 1986. The federal corporate tax rate was permanently slashed from 35%, the highest rate of any large, developed country, to 21%. The tax cut is partly financed by a one-off levy on profits retained overseas by US corporations, at 15.5% on cash and 8% on other investments.

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Posted on 19/02/2018