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Australia – a deteriorating labour market with all the indicators in decline

Today’s release by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) of the Labour Force data for August 2012 reveals a deteriorating labour market with all the indicators of merit in decline. Total employment fell, labour force participation fell and hours worked fell. Unemployment fell but only because the decline in the labour force outstripped the decline in employment – which means that the decline in unemployment was due to an increase in hidden unemployment. A decline in unemployment driven by a rise in hidden unemployment is not virtuous. Certainly this data is not consistent with any notions that the Australian labour market is booming or close to full employment. The most continuing feature that should warrant immediate policy concern is the appalling state of the youth labour market. My assessment of today’s results – worrying with further weakness to come. The government has no case to make for its pursuit of a budget surplus in the next fiscal year.

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Australian labour market – just creeping along

Today’s release by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) of the Labour Force data for July 2012 reveals a fairly flat labour market with modest gains in employment and hours worked which were sufficient to outstrip the underlying labour force growth and so unemployment fell by 2,500. That decline in unemployment was aided by a declining participation rate. In other words, some of the decline in unemployment was due to a modest increase in hidden unemployment. Certainly this data is not consistent with any notions that the Australian labour market is booming or close to full employment. The most continuing feature that should warrant immediate policy concern is the appalling state of the youth labour market. My assessment of today’s results – positive outcome but very weak (mostly flat) trend. The economy is just creeping along when it comes to creating jobs.

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Australian labour force data – weak and weakening

Last month my Labour Force commentary was entitled – Australian labour market – good signs but wait for the reversal. It didn’t take very long for the reversal to come, although I caution anyone drawing trends from month-to-month variations in this sort of data. Today’s release by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) of the Labour Force data for June 2012 reveals a weakening labour market with all the negative signs concurring – falling full-time employment, falling participation, falling hours worked and rising unemployment. If the labour force had not have contracted due to the falling participation rate, the unemployment rate would have been closer to 5.5 per cent rather than 5.2 as officially recorded. Certainly this data is not consistent with any notions that the Australian labour market is booming or close to full employment. The most continuing feature that should warrant immediate policy concern is the appalling state of the youth labour market. My assessment of today’s results – weak and weakening.

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Australian labour market – good signs but wait for the reversal

Today’s release by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) of the Labour Force data for May 2012 reveals a stronger labour market than last month with full-time employment growth evident and participation rising. The oddity of the results are that monthly hours worked declined indicating weakness. While the unemployment rate rose to 5.1 per cent (and is still way too high), the reason for the rise in unemployment is that employment growth was outstripped by labour force growth which is a sign of a strengthening labour market. Of-course, the data is highly variable between months and the trend remains weak. Certainly this data is not consistent with the outstanding real GDP growth figures revealed in yesterday’s National Accounts. The most disturbing aspect of the labour market data remains the appalling state of the youth labour market. My assessment of today’s results – good signs but I will wait for the reversal next month.

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Industry job dynamics in Australia

I have been number crunching today – heavy sort of crunching. One of the on-going discussions in the Australian context is the dual pattern of growth that is being observed here – which has arisen largely because, in essence, we are a primary commodity producer (and exporter) rather than an industrial nation. At present, some sectors (such as manufacturing and tourism) and regions (such as Sydney and Melbourne) are struggling while other sectors (such as mining) and regions (such as Western Australia, Northern Queensland and the Northern Territory) are booming. The East Coast where the majority of Australians live and work is probably close to recession. These trends – popularised by the term ‘two-speed economy’ – whereby serious sectoral and regional imbalances accompany overall economic growth, challenge the fundamental patterns of our economic and social settlements and threaten the financial viability of many Australian households. So I was computing job destruction and job creation rates today as part of an investigation of how the labour market is reacting the dual nature of economic outcomes at present. And then … the ABS published the Retail Sales data for April 2012 today and, as usual, everyone could interpret it in their own way. But it does bear somewhat on how we consider this dual growth pattern.

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Australian labour market – converting unemployment into hidden unemployment

Today’s release by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) of the Labour Force data for April 2012 reveals a weak labour market with the employment gains being confined to part-time work and workers dropping out of the labour force due to the limited available vacancies. While unemployment fell by 28.8 thousand, the drop in participation accounted for 26 thousand of that – meaning the Australian economy has been busy over the last month converting the official unemployed into hidden unemployed. This is not a “good” outcome as some in the media and the Government are claiming today. The outlook is also not very positive either given the Federal government’s obsessive pursuit of a budget surplus which will cut economic growth by some percentage points. They are even boasting that if growth falls short and tax revenue shrinks they will impose even further cuts on spending and/or increases in taxes. At that point the word idiocy comes to mind. The most disturbing aspect of the labour market data remains the appalling state of the youth labour market. This should be a policy priority for the government. But they have gone missing in action – lost in their surplus mania. My assessment of today’s results – very subdued indeed. I will be on ABC Radio National Drive program tonight from 18:15 talking about today’s data! Live Feed.

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Australian labour force data – tentative improvement

Today’s release by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) of the Labour Force data for March 2012 provides some positive news for once although as you will read the underlying trend situation remains weak. The labour force data tells us that employment grew, working hours grew, participation rose and unemployment fell, albeit only by a smidgin. Given the monthly variability in the data it is not yet cause for celebration. The pattern of growth/contraction in employment growth has been well documented over the last 18 or so months with nothing much happening in net terms when one takes a longer view (say 6 months or so). The outlook is not very positive either given the Federal government’s obsessive pursuit of a budget surplus which will cut economic growth by some percentage points. The most disturbing aspect of the labour market data remains the appalling state of the youth labour market. This should be a policy priority for the government. But they have gone missing in action – lost in their surplus mania. My assessment of today’s results – positive but cautiously so.

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Australian Labour Force data – an unambiguously bad result

Today’s release by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) of the Labour Force data for February 2012 presents a very poor set of numbers. Yesterday, we learned that the Australian economy had cut its growth rate in half in the December 2011 quarter (compared to September 2011). The labour force data tells us what is happening in the last few weeks and so gives a much more timely assessment of where things are at. The conclusion is that the trend signified by the National Accounts data has accelerated and the economy is shedding jobs, driving workers out of the labour force (participation falling) and unemployment is rising as a result. The Federal government’s reaction to the poor growth figures which are undermining its obsessive pursuit of a budget surplus was that they would have to cut spending even harder. That approach exemplifies irresponsible and failed macroeconomic management. Their policies settings are contributing to the poor labour market data. The most disturbing aspect of the labour market data over the last year or more has been the appalling state of the youth labour market. Teenage females did gain some modest relief this month from the relentless loss of jobs, but teenage males continued to go backwards. This should be a policy priority for the government. But they have gone missing in action – lost in their surplus mania. My assessment of today’s results – the evil troika is evident – falling employment, rising unemployment and falling participation. That is an unambiguously bad result.

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Age discrimination against our teenagers should end

I haven’t much time to write today – I’m off to Sydney later where I will be a speaker at the following event – Open Forum: Young and old-age discrimination and the economy. I will be sharing the podium was the Age Discrimination Commissioner of the Australian Human Rights Commission, a Federal government agency. The topic is how can Australian businesses and government make better use of our youth and senior citizens. As regular readers will know I regularly try to push the parlous state of the teenage labour market into the policy arena, with varying degrees of success. But today’s event is high-profile and provides a good platform for advancing these issues. This blog covers some of the issues that I will raise.

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Australian labour force data – mixed news with little to be happy about

Today’s release by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) of the Labour Force data for January 2012 shows that the deterioration in the Australian economy towards the end of the year has temporarily ceased although working hours have fallen sharply. The data shows that employment has recovered a little and unemployment fell as a response – both good signs. The employment growth, however, is dominated by part-time jobs growth and underemployment is almost certain to have risen in January. The fall in hours worked is consistent with that conclusion. So the news is mixed this month. I still consider the Federal government to be undermining our prosperity by pursuing its obsession to get the budget back into surplus in the coming year. The most disturbing aspect of the labour market data over the last year or more has been the appalling state of the youth labour market. Teenage females did gain some modest relief this month from the relentless loss of jobs, but teenage males continued to go backwards. This should be a policy priority for the government. But they have gone missing in action – lost in their surplus mania. My assessment of today’s results – mixed news with little to be happy about.

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