A day in the life of an economist – Rob Heyes

Infometrics welcomes Rob Heyes as their newest senior economist. Rob joins Infometrics from MBIE, where he led research projects on migration trends and was the New Zealand representative to the OECD Migration Expert Group. Rob has a deep knowledge of labour markets and skills and works with our regional and sector clients.
We chat with Rob about what a day in the life of an economist looks like…

Putting automation in perspective

The potential job losses from automation between now and 2036 could be more than five times the job losses in shrinking occupations since 2000. At a regional level, areas with faster economic, employment, and population growth have generally exhibited more dynamism in their workforces over the last 20 years. As a result, it seems likely that they will be better able to adapt to changing workplace needs in coming years.

Striking while the iron’s hot

Twenty-seven years after the Employment Contracts Act made union membership voluntary, the current coalition government has named Jim Bolger – the Prime Minister in 1991 – to head its Fair Pay Agreements working group. Fair Pay Agreements are meant to become the centrepiece of employment law policy, yet no one is quite sure yet what they are, or how they will alter employment relations. Among these changes, strike action by nurses, and union meetings, we thought we’d provide a primer on various aspects of the industrial relations scene.

Tertiary education: changes needed now

By now it must feel like we are starting to beat a dead horse covering the shortcomings of the government’s tertiary education policies. However, every month new data continues to be released which strengthens our position even more. The current system appears to be slowly failing, and fees-free has done next to nothing to save it. If we want to improve tertiary education outcomes in New Zealand, the sector requires adjustments to the system beyond lowering the costs for students.

New Zealand’s economic outlook turns

Economic growth during 2018 is set to fall short of previous expectations, according to Infometrics’ latest forecasts. Infometrics sees economic growth slowing from 3.0%pa currently to 2.6%pa in early 2019, contrasting with the forecaster’s previous expectation of accelerating growth during 2018.
“Labour capacity constraints in the residential construction sector, changes in central government’s infrastructure priorities, and slightly disappointing dairy prices will all weigh on growth this year,” says Infometrics Chief Forecaster Gareth Kiernan.

Getting down to business, or getting businesses down?

We have revised down our expectations for GDP growth during 2018 in our latest economic forecasts (see Graph 1). Our previous forecasts, in October, were upbeat about prospects for the New Zealand economy this year, but a range of factors have combined to see that growth outlook soften over the last few months. These factors include persistent capacity constraints in the construction sector, changes in central government’s infrastructure priorities, and dairy prices that have been a bit disappointing.

Have we lost faith in the economy?

A raft of unfavourable confidence surveys have been released over the last couple of months. Firstly, ANZ’s business confidence surveys for November and December showed confidence at a nine-year low. And last week the headline figure in the NZIER’s Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion (QSBO) fell into negative territory for the first time since 2015. Is the economy going downhill or are we just in an election-related blip?