16th April 2021
Australia's Economic Recovery Update
Australian unemployment has dropped to 5.6% with an extraordinary rebound of jobs and economic prosperity. More than 70000 jobs were added in March as Qantas and Virgin as well as major banks have started to hire new people, with old workers being retained.
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics
Chief executives of CBA and Westpac describe the recovery as “miraculous” and “robust” respectively, commenting on the fact that there are no signs of distressed borrowing. Qantas has increased its capacity target to 90% of pre pandemic levels with all domestic staff back at work, while Virgin had two of its strongest sales days in its history, helped by the government's half-price fare offer.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has declared the labour force numbers a “great encouragement to Australians,” while Treasurer Frydenberg noted the speed of the recovery was “4.5 times faster than the 1990s recession,”. Around 80% of the job growth in March was to women, and around 50% to young people.
Bjorn Jarvis, the head of labour statistics at the ABC, said the latest data showed the hours worked is now even higher than in March 2020, which the proportion of women employed at the highest it had ever been. Employment rates are above pre pandemic levels in all states except South Australia.
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics
Mr Frydenberg said that paying down government debt would begin when the unemployment rate was comfortable below 6%. The RBA also said that the unemployment rate would have to fall to low 4s at best before it lifted record low interest rates. HSBC and CBA economists Paul Bloxham and Gareth Aird both believe that the RBA will be very conservative in their approaches, which interest rates saying at its current low until 2024.
The Future of Batteries
As climate change becomes an increasingly important discussion, industries such as electric vehicles and renewable energy have seen much attention in the last few years. However, both share one problem: Batteries. Although batteries have been around for over two centuries, the fundamental technology behind them presents some limitations.
Lithium Ion batteries are the most common type of rechargeable batteries used around the world, and are a key component in electric vehicles. However, they aren’t capable of holding as much energy as gasoline for a given amount of space. Moreover, there have been several supply shortages affecting Lithium Ion production, causing prices to go up whilst making them inaccessible to many.
A similar issue is present within the solar industry. The cost of installing a solar panel on a house has fallen tremendously over the last decade. However, the cost of getting one with a rechargeable battery capable of storing solar energy is still quite expensive. This prevents many households from switching to solar - and also means that those who do adopt it may not be able to rely exclusively on solar energy for their daily needs.
Source: Solar Choice
Presently, battery makers are aiming to tackle two key issues:
Increasing battery supply to keep up with demand
To do this several battery start-ups such as Redwood Materials, which is run by Tesla’s former CTO, aim to ramp up recycling operations for lithium to prevent old batteries from going to waste.
Moreover, EV manufacturers in the US seek to lobby the government for mining permits to be able to extract more lithium from America’s reserves.
Making batteries capable of storing more energy for a given amount of space
Companies such as Enovix, a battery start-up based in California, aim to tweak the underlying technology in Lithium Ion batteries to make them more efficient. Enovix believes that it can achieve this by replacing the carbon anodes present within these batteries with silicon and expects to begin selling its first units this year.
Another start-up, by the name of QuantumScape, is developing solid state lithium-ion batteries which use solids rather than liquids to transfer energy. However, this technology presents some significant engineering challenges and may take a while to become commercially available.
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