Unemployment figures

The latest official unemployment figures show a national total of 4.2 per cent, which is reportedly the lowest level since 1974.

Reports on unemployment figures inevitably bring questions about just how accurate they are, and how much underemployment is ignored. There have certainly been comments left on this blog a number of times to that effect.

For anyone who wonders about such things, I recommend reading this short research note which the Parliament Library has issued which “examines the definition of unemployment and its limitations. It also considers how these limitations can be overcome by using other measures of labour underutilisation produced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.” It lists some of the changes that have occured over the years in the Bureau of Statistics’ definition of unemployment. The alternative measurement methods it looks at includes measuring unused labour resources and number of potential hours of labour not used, rather than just number of people.

Whatever the limitations of a single unemployment figure may be, it is clearly trending in a positive direction. Which does lead me to note in passing that it has clearly disproved the old myths about ‘migrants taking our jobs.’ This continuing decline in unemployment has occurred at the same time as record levels of migration into Australia. Whilst there are still groups and areas where unemployment and underemployment is a significant problem, we also clearly have major labour market shortages in some regions and industries. If it wasn’t for the record migration intake, these labour shortages would have reached critical stage long ago.

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  1. In the ABS figures last week it showed that only 67% of workers work full time. In the old days only these people were considered to be employed so based on 1974 reckoning we would have an unemployment rate of 33%. Among our kids it is still that high.

    We have 2 million work aged men not working or not working enough but we have others longing for the 1850’s when the 8 hour day was won because they are working between 50 and 60 hours a week with no extra pay.

    Women’s wages are dropping and hidden in the so-called “growth” figures is the fact that as a percentage of GDP wages have FALLEN by 5.6%. So either the employment level is a total lie or a lot of workers are having their wages lowered.

    It is simply not possible to guage because this government is so dishonest about everything.

    And the media have forgotten how to analyse anything at all.

    Profits are up 28% of but debt is up $200 billion and they call that “growth” when I would call it a deficit.

    Go figure.

  2. I dont know what to think of Senator Bartletts blog ,and Marilyns was almost a relief in comparison.Perhaps the Senator prefers people working so they can have the experience of it,then wonder why the Costello man claims some form of Godliness for letting people in on the secret.Once working… people because they are so-called earners,can reflect on the stupidity of economists and everything they dream up to claim something about themselves.And it might keep the workforce including the bosses happy,knowing in comparison to Costello and Howard and the whole wretched Liberals,the workplace has to tolerate them on other matters.Like Bangla Desh,Education,enough time and money for health sport, hobbies, relationships,prayer even sex,before marriage.Rather than the employment figures ..stupid!?

  3. As Ross Gittins pointed out the other day, the unemployment figures should have changed one aspect of political debate but the public rhetoric has been slow to catch up. For 30 years a standard argument for or against anything is that it will create/cost jobs, because lowering unemployment was generally regarded as one of the two or three most important objectives of public policy.

    Now and in the forseeable future that will no longer be the case. I wonder what the new ‘killer point’ will be in political debates?

  4. Just a couple of points. I know some have held strong views on the numbers in previous posts and apart from some kind of gloating desire for people not to find jobs there doesn’t seem any alternative to me to accept the situation, with the margins of error acknowledged by them, put forward by those who are tasked to produce this material. For example, some say that the figures are distorted by the test that enables someone doing 1 hour of paid work a week to be no longer unemployed. Apart from the unlikelihood of that being a common practice, the size of the numbers involved would statistically make it almost impossible for those distortions to affect the overall trend. The Feral A would be able to explain better.

    For the information of poster 1 – 7.53 million F/T jobs out of a total of 10.45 million = 72%. Reference to ABS 624.0.55.001 Labour Force Time Series reveals in 1974, 5.1 mill were employed F/T and 727,000 were employed P/T. A ration of 87% to 13%. The changing nature of that ratio is a worldwide trend and entirely appropriate in a society that has changed from male dominated employment to much more mixed and flexible workplaces.

    And your last paragraph is absolutely right – it’s largely been migrants that have enabled jobs growth, certainly not taken it. Whets taking our jobs is an ageing population – god help us without migrants.

  5. Just read the comments by the statistician and although informative, must say still am not sure as to WHEN the measure for unemployment was split into unemployment and under-employment.
    There seemed no adequate explanation as to why unemployment figures are released once-monthly, yet the under-employment and under-utilisation figures are only released once a year. The statistician commented that these are ALL necessary for a full appreciation of the unemployment situation.
    Finally, despite all previous explanations as to the issue, Andrew has again forwarded the naive notion that migration cannot impact unemployment.
    Once again, Andrew, this is going to depend on the sector and the skilled or unskilled subset involved.
    As we all know, so-called economic recovery of recent times in Australia has been very uneven, as the material provided by the statistician helped demonstrate
    With certain categories like doctors, you could import till Armageddon and still not have enough.
    Yet it must be obvious even to a village idiot
    that if employers rort visa systems or parachute in unskilled offshore labour, precisely those most disadvantaged already by unemployment in our society will dip out, as to a long-delayed re-start to their lives. Like David Hicks, certain unemployed are metaphorical exiles who also discover that “justice delayed is justice denied”.
    We should remember to distinguish migrants from refugees, of course.
    We likewise must remember that off-shore labour often exists under conditions of poverty we would find unnacceptable, and be careful not to blame these for going for an unlikely quid if some unscrupulous developer throws it their way.
    We should look elsewhere however, than the local poor to fill the role of donors for other sectors of the global poor.
    We should instead look at rorting executives or politicians on multi-million dollar salaries and recall that offshoring is about driving local wages down for local disadvantaged.

  6. People from other countries (primarily Asian) have been taking our jobs for decades – but they are not necessarily coming here to do it.

    Jobs in secondary industries have been making an exodus from our shores for at least the past 30 years.

    Three days ago, the termite man told me his family was on the verge of losing their home, due to the fact that the electronics assembly company his wife used to work for recently closing down – making 250 workers redundant.

    The company is moving overseas so they can pay something in the order of $1.00 per hour to Asian workers, instead of the minimum wage here (around $15.00 an hour, I think).

    The lady has applied for similar work at Brendale – one of 250 applicants. No surprises there.

    I tend to agree with Marilyn on this one. The Howardship is just giving us another load of B.S. The country seems to be run on individual greed and self-focus, with no concern at all for the common good.

    If John Howard hands over the top job to Peter Costello, it will be a certain indicator that the next election will be lost by the Liberals. Peter Costello does not (and has never) looked like a Prime Minister to me. John Howard will be setting him up as the fall guy if things continue to look bleak.

    Lots of people who would like full-time jobs are working piecemeal hours anywhere they can get them.

    According to an address given at the National Press Club this week, there are plenty of jobs available for teachers, doctors, nurses, accountants and mining engineers.

    Other areas which ought to have climbing employment potential might be in the aged care and child care sectors (mostly poorly paid).

    For anyone struggling to hang onto their house, here are 3 possibilities:

    1. taking in boarders
    2. attempting to refinance your loan
    3. looking into hardship provisions of your superannuation fund.

    I like the sound of No. 3 best.

  7. Marilym Shepherd [1] and Coral [7]:

    Only fools and heavy smokers of non-tobacco substances would believe any of the nonsense that pretends to be employment statistics in Australia these days. They’re a joke. Sooner or later, statisticians will demand that the real figures be collected, analyzed without interference …. and published without embellishment.

  8. ken- unfortunately I’m a bit busy at the moment, but if I get a chance I’ll have a closer look at the pdfs and submit a comment.

    One point that is always worth making – and its something that Paul Walter mentioned – is that reducing any multi-faceted phenomenon to a single figure inevitably entails the loss of information.

    In some cases, that might not matter too much. But WRT the unemployment rate, its clear that a lot of crucial data is being glossed over.

  9. One thing that I forgot to mention is that in partnered couples, the employment status of one partner (generally the woman) isn’t taken into account.

    If one partner is working, the other may be a full-time homemaker, or seeking part-time or full-time work, without it ever being recorded.

    My own married sister has been forced into part-time child care work (despite her ill health and her desire to raise her own children full-time) by the Howardship’s new policy of cancelling her parenting payment when the youngest child turns 7 if she doesn’t go out to work.

    This has resulted in financial losses for her husband (increased taxation) and a reduction in family payment.

  10. i have to agree with marilyn espesialy the part about

    It is simply not possible to guage because this government is so dishonest about everything.

    things are not quite as good as this govt would have us all belive.

  11. Only in QLD – old Joh and Pauline are alive and well with that strange combination of socilaist protectionsism, red necked conservatism and paternalsitic liberalsim all rolled up in one – highlighted in some posts here and there

  12. Coral – just out of curiosity, how does your sister’s part-time work make her husband’s tax go up?

    I could understand it if your sister didn’t have children, because of the way the dependent spouse rebate works, but that’s not applicable here.

  13. With Sharman Stone up and at them this morning with a new policy to work from now,these are now the make or break time for the Liberals after the next election.If the long-term unemployed end up begging in the streets,because of a problem at Centrelink or elsewhere,then they can only rely on the suppressive nature of authority,whilst Labor licks its wounds.With employers,some of them owing tax to government,facing the long term unemployed for the first time,perhaps all their power they have accumulated over GST,which wasnt meant to give them power-but the LIberals have used it as a power base to encourage employer opinion…will finally be seen as just too much.Long term unemployed competing with young workers students and within the ranks single mothers..the employers are going to get a taste of their power that they bloody well deserve.And they would like to be convinced unions are a problem.I am not saying the long term unemployed are a problem,but there can be no excuses for failed policies and those that support them,if,after the next election,we become like some already like,the ultra-rich supported by ultra Right and A.S.I.O.and other selected organs of law enforcement making sure those not born into privilege descend further by branding the arse of the young as public school attendee,everytime the security apparatus deems to do an inspection.The right to work is fine,to be told to work is parental,and mumma Sharman will have to hide her grown up kids,the employers behind her skirts.Am I allowed to do a representative swear…………….

  14. Sorry spog, I can’t answer your question. I’m just going on what my sister told me at this point in time.

    I’ve just read a brochure produced by Rudd endorsing his local federal candidate. I cannot see that Labor’s attitudes towards workers is very different from the Liberal’s.

    They want to get EVERYONE out to work and increase productivity, even though we are already said to be the hardest working nation on earth.

    It seems both major parties are into slave labour.

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