New Zealand’s ‘Output Gap’

A good example of the output gap from the RBNZ Monetary Policy Statement last week – see graph above. There are strong capacity pressures which are the result of the unleashing of domestic demand and supply chain disruptions. Although the latter has increased it is presently unable to keep up with the the overall aggregate demand of the economy and subsequently this has driven inflation up to 4.9% above the 1 to 3% remit target band.

With unemployment at 3.4% and *underutilisation of 9.2%, annual employment growth of 4.3% (September 2021) cannot be maintained with this pressure on the labour market. There has been strong demand for more workers in some sectors, but it has been difficult for businesses to recruit extra staff. This has seen wages rise as firms compete for workers. However it is important to remember that on 29th October there were still 1,282,152 jobs being supported by a wage subsidy. A total of NZ$3,719.7 million had been paid via the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy August 2021. With the continued demand for labour, wage pressure and salary costs are expected to increase. Consequently a rising unemployment rate could be evident.

*underutilisation  – measures spare capacity in New Zealand’s labour market. People do not have a job, but are available to work and are actively seeking employment

Notes on the output gap

If there is no long-term trade-off, low inflation does not permanently choke growth. Moreover, by keeping inflation low and stable, a central bank, in effect, stabilises output and jobs. In the graph below the straight line represents the growth in output that the economy can sustain over the long run; the wavy line represents actual output. When the economy is producing below potential (ie, unemployment is above the NAIRU), at point A, inflation will fall until the “output gap” is eliminated. When output is above potential, at point B, inflation will rise for as long as demand is above capacity. If inflation is falling (point A), then a central bank will cut interest rates, helping to boost growth in output and jobs; when inflation is rising (point B), it will raise interest rates, dampening down growth. Thus if monetary policy focuses on keeping inflation low and stable, it will automatically help to stabilise employment and growth.


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