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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Latvia Retail Sales January 2008

According to the latest data from Latvijas Statistika retail sales in January - when compared to December 2007 on a seasonally adjusted basis - decreased by 1.5%. And in January 2008 when compared to January 2007 sales decreased by 0.7% (data adjusted by number of working days). That is we are also into negative territory on a year on year basis.

Month on month turnover in retail trade enterprises selling textiles, wearing apparel and footwear decreased by 13.7% and in specialised stores selling mainly food, beverages and tobacco by 12.6%. Turnover in retail trade enterprises selling pharmaceutical and medical goods, cosmetics and toiletry increased by 2.5% month on month, while non-specialised stores, selling mainly non-food increased by 22.1% and stores selling furniture, household goods, electrical appliances and construction materials saw their sales rise by by 2.9%.

On another front I mentioned in this post about retail sales in Estonia that I didn't really see any major time lag between economic events in the two countries looking at the retail sales chart. Latvian Abroad chimed in with the following:

I think 2) (the one year time difference) used to be true - until the present credit crunch which was simultaneous. Construction boom took off 1-2 years later in Latvia (compared to Estonia) and so on.

Now, the events are mostly simultaneous. One exception is that Estonian exports are already declining year-on-year (loss of competitiveness?) while Latvian ones are still growing. Latvian salaries are 20-30% below Estonian which is around 1 year at the present salary increase rates - that could explain it.

Well this is an interesting point about wages that I hadn't really thought about. Basically I've been looking at year on year wage increase charts, but basically not coming from the region I'd missed something so obvious as the relative differences in wages between the countries. So I went and checked out the data a bit.

First of all the comparative wage indices for the two countries.

Well, so far so good I thought. All the way back to 1996 the two countries seem to track each other pretty closely, indeed with the last litle extra sprint arguably Latvia has more or less positioned itself vis a vis Estonia in the position it was back in 1996. But of course none of this tells us about the RELATIVE wages (as opposed to the relative movements in wages) between the two countries, and this was Latvian Abroad's point I think.

So then I checked out the data for average monthly and average hourly wage costs.

So there I think you can see it, Latvian Abroad is right, there is a significant difference in the wage levels between the two countries, although I wouldn't be tempted to move beyond this and make any more general comparison here (like Estonians are better paid than Latvians, although they may well be), since it all depends on the levels of productivity involved and the value content of the work people are doing. But the difference is striking and interesting, although going back to the wage index chart I can't see any real evidence of these proportions changing in any systematic way. Neck and necking it I would say, and when we start to look at the inflation side what we have to say is that what is going to matter is just how much all these wages will actually be worth - in either case - when the current "doin is done".

On the other hand Latvian Abroad's point about how it is that Latvia is still at this point able to increase exports to some extent while Estonia seems to have entered decline may well be an interesting and valid one.

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