Flat as a pancake

Written By: - Date published: 12:43 pm, March 24th, 2011 - 58 comments
Categories: economy, national - Tags:

The economy grew just 0.2% in the December quarter, enough to avoid the technical definition of recession but did it feel like that for you? No. It felt like recession because the economic pie grew slower than the population. National’s economic record is GDP per capita 5% below its peak and down another 0.6% between March and December last year.

For an illustration of National’s total failure to improve the economy, we only need to compare their record on GDP per capita to Labour’s:

We’ve flat-lined under this lazy, elitist government. And what the GDP stats don’t show is that an ever-increasing share of the cake is going to the few at the top.

The second Christchurch earthquake and the oil/food price spike will obviously make this current quarter much worse but we might still ‘technically’ avoid a second recession because it’s only a recession if the June quarter is even worse than the March quarter, which will be a hard ask. that, of course, just says more about the limits of the definition than reality.

The Great Recession began in 2008 and, despite a small positive quarter or two here and there, we haven’t even begun to regain what was lost. Nor, with serious economic problems besetting us and a government that refuses to acknowledge, much less act to mitigate them, do things look like improving any time soon.

58 comments on “Flat as a pancake”

  1. interesting 1

    I do find it interesting that some (may have actually been a post by you marty, not 100% sure) have claimed a double dip recession for months now…only to be proven wrong.

    This doesnt mean that i think the economy is doing great…..but it does mean you were wrong and all that naysaying looks a little silly.

    • lprent 1.1

      Only by the technical definition of a recession as Marty pointed out in the first paragraph.

    • George.com 1.2

      Apparently all the statistical data is not at hand, some is still locked up in offices in Christchurch central and not able to be retrieved. That data may yet actually show the economy IS in recession.

      The matter of a technical recession or not is a technical matter, yes. For many kiwis however it feels like a recession and has since 2008. We are still in a recession as we have not climbed out of the hole we fell into in 2008.

      • Armchair Critic 1.2.1

        Yet in parliament today Dr English proudly announced that he has the economy out of reverse and into neutral. No wonder he needs a driver for his limo.

  2. interesting 2

    Back into recession

    yup it was you

    and here as well:

    House prices show double-dip

    and finally this one where you claimed it was official that we were in double dip recession:

    It’s official: 2nd recession has begun

    • Lanthanide 2.1

      “and finally this one where you claimed it was official that we were in double dip recession:”

      In per capita terms (the one that actually matter), we have. If you just use the gross GDP figure, then we haven’t. So what?

    • Marty G 2.2

      I actually commented several times that december might be positive but it’s still recession in a practical sense even if doesn’t meet the most common technical definition. Another definition, which I think makes more sense, says you’re in recession until the previous gdp peak is regained. obviously, we’re no where near that

      • Bazar 2.2.1

        Tui Ad: “I actually commented several times that december might be positive”

        Must of been just after you wrote the article announcing how we had ‘offically’ entered a double dip recession eh.

        I also love how your now trying to redefine the meaning of recession to meet your needs.

        I have a request, add “dictionary” to the capcha list. Its pretty obvious some people could use it.

  3. Lanthanide 3

    Question: is the GDP figure adjusted for inflation? I’m guessing it is.

  4. interesting 4

    you are holding those straws rather tightly there Lanthanide

    • Lanthanide 4.1

      I don’t see you jumping up and down when English and Key cherry-pick their statistics and used rather strained analysis to make their points.

      But when Marty makes a very simple, straightforward and *relevant* analysis of “GDP per capita”, you act like he’s committed some kind of act of desperation.

  5. PeteG 5

    Most of the drop on that graph was through 2008, after which National took over, so you are referring to the flattish period after the fall.

    How does the sluggish non-recovery compare to the world economy, and to other countries?

    Is it missing the just released Q4? That should have tweaked it back up slightly.

    • Marty G 5.1

      Q4 is included in the graph. As mentioned in the second sentence of the post, gdp per capita fell in the december quarter – by $10 a head as it happens.

    • Marty G 5.2

      sorry, third sentence of the post.

      Btw, you’re welcome to go to the oecd website yourself and see how our economic record compares. I can tell right off that it’s worse than australia

      • PeteG 5.2.1

        Ok, so you are using different data to show what you want. Seems to be minor quibbling. Everyone knows the economy is lagging Australia, is struggling and is likely to struggle on for a while yet.

        If Labour manage a miraculous post-Hughes possibly post-Goff recovery and pull off an unlikely victory this November (with the help of some friends) do you expect to see a fairly rapid recovery?

        • Pascal's bookie 5.2.1.1

          All I know is the the current mob were predicting an aggressive recovery by now, on account of their step changin. There’s no sign of any recovery at all, and no, it’s not the earthquakes fault.

        • Marty G 5.2.1.2

          I’m not using different data. The graph is the stats nz data. Gdp per capita fell because the population grew 0.3% while gdp grew 0.2%.

          You could check yourself if you weren’t so lazy and ignorant.

  6. interesting 6

    Lanthanide, i think that it is pathetic that politicians (and the ALL do it) pick and choose the stats they use.

    My point, which seems to have gone over your head, is that Marty has on several occasions claimed we were in a double dip recession…which we arent.

    Then, instead of saying oops i got it wrong, he then says, does it FEEL like we are in one, since it clearly wasnt.

    Do i think the economy is going well? Hell no.

    Do i think that National ar struggling to come up with real solutions? Hell yes.

    Can i admit when i am wrong? Hell yes.

    Can Marty? if this post is the answer then it is a NO. But, i dont know if this is his answer….i will let him decide that.

    My point being…many contributors to this blog/page/site clearly state they hate selective stats (as i do) being used by various politicians, but now we are seeing that here (as i have interpreted this post – which i may have misinterpreted?).

    As PeteG says, the graph is MISSING the 4th quater results which would show the graph making a rise (ever so slightly).

    As i say, the economy aint great, but this post gives the perception that it is even worse, adding the fourth quater results make it look slightly different.

    • lprent 6.1

      I think I can safely summarize my opinion of verbiage is that I think that you just don’t like the numbers. But they’re rather immune to your bullshitting, so I can understand your frustration.

      But let me help you try to understand those numbers….

      GDP is an aggregated total of economic activity for the whole population. Marty has said that we escaped the technical definition of a recession by the merest slither in the last quarter of last year.

      However the population grew more than the growth of the aggregate, which means that on average, the residents of NZ managed to achieve less economic activity per person.

      This means that on average we are all poorer.

      There is nothing hard about that….

    • Bunji 6.2

      I definitely predicted we were in a double-dip recession (in line with many professional economists), and it looks like I was wrong by a very small margin.

      I would however prefer we always used GDP/capita. Getting “growth” in the economy just by increasing the number of people just encourages over-population of the planet, and doesn’t help us as individuals in any way.

      Maybe I should start a campaign for the Stats dept to switch over…

      (oh and Q4 is definitely in the graph – there’s no tick up, GDP is down per capita as Marty repeats in the comments above)

    • Marty G 6.3

      Don’t you morons know how to read a graph? Q4 is there. Only every second quarter is labelled. Gdp per capita fell in Q4.

      • RobC 6.3.1

        I think they can read a graph. They just haven’t twigged that the graph is GDP per capita, or perhaps they don’t know what per capita means. Or perhaps they think per capita is irrelevant. Whatever, it’s a reflection on either their comprehension or intelligence, or perhaps both.

      • Draco T Bastard 6.3.2

        I don’t think it’s that they don’t know how to read a graph inasmuch as their need to deny any reality that doesn’t fit their world view.

        • PeteG 6.3.2.1

          Haha, that’s funny, that’s what this graph is about isn’t it? Fitting a particular view?

          I didn’t look carefully enough at first, Marty led the post talking about “The economy grew just 0.2% in the December quarter” then switched mid paragraph to GDP per capita which he then showed in the graph. I don’t think he was being deliberately deceptive, but it was easy to be deceived, hence expecting an upturn for the 0.2 – no other value was mentioned.

          Another funny thing – some people are claiming the reason why we aren’t recovering fast enough is because National committed themselves to leave costly Labour policies in place for their first term.

          we only need to compare their record on GDP per capita to Labour’s:

          It’s not a comparison of records – they were in power at different times so can’t be directly compared.

          What would Labour have done differently that would have made a significant difference?

          More importantly, what would Labour do differently from November if they manage to squeak back in to power?

          • mcflock 6.3.2.1.1

            It’s not so much “choosing data to reflect a particular view” as choosing data concerning different things you want to look at. An extreme [fictitious] example would be the opposition saying that the infant mortality rate is 40%, while the government touts wonderful projections that Superfund contributions are more than sufficient to pay for pensions in 70 years time.

            GDP is a useful benchmark for the economy, GDP per capita is a better benchmark for how the people are faring. Interest rates are useful for some projections, inflation for others, even raw numbers are useful for some things.

            But the clear difference is that here you can argue about the applicability or suitability of data. With Key you have to check whether his data is actually true or just invented on the fly, THEN piddle around with debates about whether a 2-quarter (longer) per capita decrease in GDP is fundamentally different to a “recession”.

          • RobC 6.3.2.1.2

            Pete, your last question is fair enough and I’m waiting for the answer, too.

            However your second-to-last Q is hypothetical and invites IMO more inane left-right ideological waffle, of which there is far too much already in the blogosphere.

            With respect to fitting a particular view, arguably GDP per capita is a far more relevant statistic than gross GDP – if GDP is growing “just” because we have more people it doesn’t really tell the real story of what is happening.

            • PeteG 6.3.2.1.2.1

              I agree on what you say about the second-to-last Q – but it is as inane as comparing the performance of Labour then to National now under entirely different circumstances.

              I also agree that GDP per capita seems more relevant – but even then on it’s own it is only part of something that’s very complex – a single graph doesn’t mean a lot on it’s own without understanding all the contributing factors.

          • Pascal's bookie 6.3.2.1.3

            Another funny thing – some people are claiming the reason why we aren’t recovering fast enough is because National committed themselves to leave costly Labour policies in place for their first term.

            If you’d be so kind I’d like to hear more about this.

            Specifically , which people, what commitments, which policies. and what reason do they give for thinking they have been the problem?

            ta.

            • PeteG 6.3.2.1.3.1

              On other differently leaning blogs quite a few suggest that National should have “fixed” benefits, Super, tax rates, WFF, student loans and the size of government to cure the country. National have been quite conservative, mostly in keeping with their pre-election assurances. I’m not sure who is more disgruntled with their easy does it approach – those to the left or those to the right.

              • Pascal's bookie

                Oh right. Not sure why some people think the problem in the economy has been too much stimulus from the government creating excessive demand, but I agree that they exist.

              • RobC

                Actually I think Pete is onto something and is the crux of the problem – Nats got elected and managed to convince a bloc of swinging centrist-voters that certain things wouldn’t be dismantled and they have tried in the main (GST excepted) to stick to their word.

                Trouble is the world doesn’t stand still and circumstances change – the economy didn’t recover post-2008 as hoped and then came along a couple of shakes … trouble is Pete with the marvellous benefit of hindsight the tax cuts of 2010 were not affordable but it is the last thing Nats would do to reverse them (and I don’t blame them as it would be political suicide).

                The problem for Nat is they can’t blame WFF (and other “costly policies”) for economic ills because they were elected on the basis such policies wouldn’t be reversed. The problem for the country is we have parties on the left and right of the spectrum trying to cuddle up to the centre in order to gain power.

                So I agree with you – the right are fkd off as Nats haven’t lurched (enough) to the right while the left are fkd off as they’re not in power and their primary choice keep putting their foot in their mouth.

                It’s too much to hope for – but I wish both parties would return to their roots and let the voters determine what is needed at any point in time.

                Just one final thing Pete, you’re quite entitled to express your opinion that WFF and interest-free student loans are “costly policies” … I make two points in reply: Nats were elected on the basis that such policies wouldn’t be touched and the left can justifiably point out tax cuts for the rich are another example of a “costly policy”.

                • PeteG

                  I agree on your first point in reply. And yes, the left can justifiably point out the tax cuts were also a costly policy, but they were not just for the rich.

                  Even with the substantially changed circumstances I don’t have a problem with National being slow to change anything right now, rapid reactions often cause at least as many problems as they solve, and most major changes take time to implement anyway. They should keep borrowing until the election, and present a case for bolder changes from there and let the voters decide. It’s a pity Labour are in so much disarray right now, they may not challenge as well as they should..

                  • Lanthanide

                    “but they were not just for the rich.”
                    Just mostly.

                    And after the GST rise and associated inflation, and childcare costs, many people went backwards. But that’s just a trifling detail.

                    • KJT

                      I don’t know about the rich.

                      The very rich maybe.

                      Incomes in NZ have dropped so much those of us on the top 20% of incomes are noticing the decrease in disposable income.

                      The income is 40% less than it was in 1980.
                      Doing 100 hours a week instead of the 45 odd in the 80’s.
                      Earning 1/3 of the Prime Ministers pay instead of three times.
                      Gone from earning twice as much as the company accountant to one 20th when they were retitled as manager. After they delegated half the work to us.
                      Tax from the top 6% of earners paying most of the tax to those between 40k and 100k.
                      Have to decide whether to buy a beamer or put petrol in it..
                      Have to decide between a ’10 ft tinny or a trip to Rotorua.
                      It used to be a 35 ft yacht or a trip to Europe.
                      Even a labourer could own a yacht in the 70’s and many did..
                      The groceries cost 1/4 of a weeks take home pay.
                      Rates, petrol, ACC, power, rent, accountant, lawyer all gone up heaps while the wages/small business income have gone down.

                      We are the Teachers, Doctors, Tradesmen, Small business entrepreneurs, skilled workers and technicians that NZ needs. Most of us have left. Not because of taxes, but because only charlatans and financial jugglers are rewarded here.

                      And I do not mind a levy for Christchurch or a bit of extra tax because however much I have to complain about, those with no jobs or on minimum wage have it much worse.
                      Money that goes to the low paid stays in NZ and will make us all better off long term.

                      Every time we have had tax cuts disposable income has gone down because we have to pay more for the same services.

                      NACT is not for small business, productive business or useful wage earners. They are for corporate thieves. Led by one of the more successful. 50mil from gambling with our currency. Fraud that should be illegal.

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    but they were not just for the rich.

                    Yes they were. The small amounts given to everyone else was a placebo to keep everyone else calm but even those small amounts were taken up very rapidly with other taxes being increased – see ACC levies, GST etc.

  7. Herodotus 7

    “..much less act to mitigate them, do things look like improving any time soon…”
    Sorry Marty yet late 1 to mid 12 there are projections that GDP will increase by 5.2% nationally and for Cant 50%
    http://www.interest.co.nz/news/52554/westpac-forecasts-6-gdp-growth-year-june-2012-govt-spending-christchurch-rebuild
    And remind me what happens if we get growth …. Oh yes The Res Bank screws us with OCR increases, and no matter what Bollard comments re Cant rebuild if he is taking into consideration this growth then why are his 2012/13 OCR forecasts still hitting the same 5% target = Morgage rates of 9-10%.
    And you also fall into the hole of come election day it is all the new govts cause- I still argue that Lab policies were still the influenecing factor controlling economic conditions until mid 09 to late 09.

    • Herodotus 7.1

      http://www.rbnz.govt.nz/monpol/statements/mar11.pdf
      Forgot to link the last Res Bank Statement with graphs
      GPD past and projected page 6
      90 day bill rate page 7. So if the Cant rebuild is such a one off why does the Dec and Mar statement have the same finish point for 2013?
      Also Marty have a look at the current account graph- great to have all this growth under Lab sourced from debt, that has to be paid and for our spending to stop and to become a net saver, this stop spending and save does not sit well for consumerism solving all our problems, (Is that not the US of A means of salvation?) Spend ouirselfs to recovery Give me a tui !!!

    • Bright Red 7.2

      if the one-off hit from Chch rebuilding is the great hope for the economy, god help us.

      And, yes, it will be a period of high inflation.

      “I still argue that Lab policies were still the influenecing factor controlling economic conditions until mid 09 to late 09”

      funny, because National was claiming all the credit when the economy grew from March 2009 to March 2010 and then blamed Labour when it stalled.

      • Herodotus 7.2.1

        “..because National was claiming all the credit when the economy grew from March 2009..” Yes and what resulted – the media blindly reported what was said, and most who are not versed in the lingo of economics shrug their shoulders and believe what is in the news. The same regarding Lab 99-00 claiming ownership of the economy at the time. Perhaps the only immdiate indicator that the incomming govt can claim possession of is emmigration figures, those who do not vote for the govt also vote with where they place their human capital, any idiot can open up immigration to cover.

  8. Pascal's bookie 8

    Wee question, this dec 1/4 figure what everyone is quibbling about.

    Is it finalised, or is it gonna get reviewed.

    I ask coz I don’t know…. but I do know figures get revised.

    Things like “The figure for 2nd 1/4 08 growth has been revised down by x% showing that growth was actually whatever”, is something I seem to read, quite a lot.

    Also seems x is quite often a bit more than .2%, so this is margin of error stuff. eh.

    • Bright Red 8.1

      they’re always reviewed. In fact, today’s release changes the March 2009 figure from -0.7% to -1.0%, and December 2008 from -1.2% to -1.3% – amongst other revisions, meaning the recession has been deeper than previously thought.

      • Pascal's bookie 8.1.1

        So too soon to say about out-of-technical-recession-storm-in-irrelevant-teacup then. Thanks mate.

        • Carol 8.1.1.1

          Yes, Mary Wilson asked Bill English that on Checkpoint this evening. He said yes, it’s possible that the figures will be revised & show we in fact did go into a double dip recession… if I recall correctly. I’m not inclined to listen again right now, but it’s here:

          http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/checkpoint/20110324

          Seems to me we are so close to that point of double dip, it hardly warrants anyone getting excited about the fact we so far seem to have avoided it.

  9. NeoConservative 9

    Herodotus, have you ever read Herodotus ?

    Cheers ..

    • Herodotus 9.1

      NC yes I have read The Histories – and a few others of pre BC era. Only book I really like is The Jewish war by Josephus especially how he survived a suicide pact and helped out Vespasian/Titus. Something about the Jewish historic writers of that time, they did not sanitise events to a great extent, they even painted themselves poorly or with character flaws.
      capcha : Discover !!!

      • Pascal's bookie 9.1.1

        they even painted themselves poorly or with character flaws.

        Not to diasagree, but they were writing in a Roman world. Romenz is the all time hardarses so paid not to paint others in a good light when writing about Roman relations with world, lest the local guvner decides to get all exampley with the nails and the wood and the fuck it’s hard to breathe, up here in the sun.

      • Olwyn 9.1.2

        Herodotus doesn’t do much much sanitising either, and gives out praises and criticisms wherever he thinks they are due. I love The Histories because Herodotus is such a gossip that he really brings the ancient world to life. Even his tall stories offer vivid glimpses into a different time.

  10. Pascal's bookie 10

    I stand corrected, by the Minister of finance no less, ont’ radio, re: my 5.2.1.1 comment.

    Mea Culpa and all that.

    He informs that there has been an aggressive recovery. So sorry if I mislead anyone about that.

  11. It’s not clear that we have avoided a double dip recession.

    • Marty G 11.1

      yeah, like BR says, these things get revised but 0.2% here or there isn’t the big deal. It’s quarter after quarter of lower economic output, lower wages, fewer jobs, and higher prices. And that’s the real story that graph shows – a crash and a complete failure to recover.

      • Puddleglum 11.1.1

        Absolutely. The link was just for those (‘Interesting’) who wanted to pull you up on the technical point.

      • KJT 11.1.2

        The crash started with Muldoon and social welfare for farmers, was accentuated by Douglas and Richardson, barely reversed by Labour and resurrected by National.

        40 years of criminal lunacy.

        40 years of getting further behind all comparable countries.

        40 years of slavishly following the USA and UK into oblivion.

  12. George.com 12

    Earlier, Mr English said the economy has made an “aggressive” recovery, even though in the second half of 2010 growth was flat.

    Aggressive, cough, recovery?

    Where?

  13. Afewknowthetruth 13

    Ya ain’t seen nuthin’ yet!

    We are living in a post peak oil world and worldwide economic expansion is no longer possible. It’s just a question of which nations fall off the cliff first.

    Give it another couple of years and the decline in oil extraction will be sufficient to ensure that every set of NZ quarterly figures will be a lot worse than the previous set. That’s called reality, as opposed the the delusional nonsense promulgated by politicians and economists.

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