What is happening with NZ inflation

Walking down the street everyone is abuzz with the recent CPI numbers. 5.9% inflation! Someone’s failed! Economists are wrong for some reason! Freeze prices! Slash things! Destroy capitalists! Suppress workers! Random noises!

I’ve heard it all.

However, it made me realise something. I haven’t looked at the details of the CPI numbers for years. If the situation has changed then my inattention to these numbers may lead to me making silly decisions. Furthermore, other people’s attention to these numbers may make inflation more responsive to the CPI releases – meaning that there is more value in me paying attention.

Given all of this, and given that I wanted to reacquaint myself with the new version of the Stats NZ website, I’ve put together an excessively long video exploring the CPI data at the “product class” level. In it I also have a look at some price stickiness measures, looks at some other inflation numbers, and fail to put particularly nice labels on scatterplots – this can be found here.

If you prefer 4 minute summary videos instead, then I run through the key ideas in 3 graphs here. And if you prefer to get your own hands dirty with the data, rather than listening to me drone one, jump over here to use my R code and access Stats NZ’s data.

Do I reach any exciting policy conclusions, or give a forecast of where we are going in any of this – no. Did I have fun, and feel like I have a better understanding of the type of shock New Zealand is experiencing at the moment – yes.

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Why higher haircut prices might point to a strong economy (transcript and video)

Seeing the price of haircuts rise, even relative to other things I might spend my money on, is the sort of thing to make an economist rail about anti-competitive behaviour. But is that really the case, or are higher haircut prices just a sign of a strengthening New Zealand economy? Gulnara and I have a think about this in a recent video.

For those who don’t like videos, there is a transcript below.

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Is haggling good actually? (video and transcript)

In a recent video Gulnara gave us some background of haggling in the former Soviet Union, and we tried to understand some of the way we could evaluate whether it is “good or bad” beyond the standard “haggling allows for optimal price discovery” vs “haggling adds transaction costs to trading”. The video can be found here.

For those who don’t like video and just want to read the text, it can be found below.

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Why is cold and flu medication cheaper in winter? (video and transcript)

In a recent video we’ve chatted about why cold and flu medication may be cheaper in winter than in summer – something that may seem a bit counter-intuitive. This was an issue discussed back in 2008 here and here.

For those who aren’t keen on listening to videos, I’ve popped the transcript just below 😉

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GDP and alternative measures of national income (video + transcript)

As part of our “Data and aggregates” playlist for macroeconomics we’ve added a video on GDP as income, and how to think about other national accounts measures in terms of income – after all, in some circumstances different measures can make more sense for a given question.

For those who don’t want to listen to a video, we’ve popped the script below.

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Price controls and inflation – is this time different?

Note – this was going to be a video, but the day after writing it up I already saw better posts on it here and here and also here.  However, the text I wrote is kept below as it adds an occasional additional point – so feel free to read those posts and this one 🙂

The increase in prices in the US over the past year has been generating considerable angst – and comments that “price controls are needed to deal with inflation, due to corporate greed”.  This has led to lots of people saying things on Twitter, with individuals who different people may see as authorities taking very different views on the topic:

Mariana Mazzucato on Twitter: “Excellent by ⁦@IsabellaMWeber⁩ on the real cause of inflation and what to do about it. https://t.co/9epjBGOIpg” / Twitter

Aaron Hedlund on Twitter: “Did I miss the macroeconomics lectures where they teach that antitrust (https://t.co/EWD1CjAOpp) and price controls (https://t.co/oskR2ATzpu) are effective inflation-fighting strategies, or is economic illiteracy just running rampant again in some corners of the popular press?” / Twitter

How about we step back from the name calling to try to think about what these terms mean and what people are saying – as in the end it is likely people are talking a little bit past each other, and when that happens the rest of us can just get confused!

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