Australia's unemployment: It's worse than you're being told

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(Meme via @Talaolp.)

When it comes to jobs in a global context, Australia's missing out. Alan Austin reveals the unemployment rates the mainstream media won't.

ONCE AGAIN, the mainstream media and the business press are shielding Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s Government by failing to report Australia’s jobs situation in the global context.

As Independent Australia has observed consistently, a strong boom is underway in trade, corporate profits and jobs.

Virtually all developed countries and the majority of developing countries are enjoying steady workforce expansion relative to population.

Australia is one of the conspicuous laggards.

Of the richest 60 countries in the world, 45 experienced stable or improved rates of unemployment over the last three months. Only 15 – including Australia – saw the jobless rate worsen.

Or, we could examine just the 35 rich, capitalist members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In 25 of these, the jobless rate improved or remained steady over the last three months as international trade and local commerce accelerated. Only ten experienced a worsening jobs rate. Of these, only eight have the jobless rate above 5%. They are Estonia, Spain, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden, Austria, Finland and Australia.

But wait. It gets worse. As the world has emerged from the global financial crisis, job participation has gradually declined in most well-managed countries. This reflects the freedom of workers above retirement age to call it quits and students to stay on at college.

Of those eight OECD countries with jobless rates above 5% and worsening, only three have also seen the participation rate rise as the local economy has obliged more people to look for paid work.

Australia is one of the very few developed countries – along with Estonia and Austria – whose workers are missing out badly on the current global good times.

Data released on Thursday (22 March) by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows:

  • 734,100 Australians still have no job at all. That’s 29,200 more than four months ago. It is 41,400 more than when the Coalition took office in 2013.
  • The critical measure of hours worked per person per month remains at close to historic lows. After recovering to 87.01 last November, it fell again to 86.15 in February. The average over the last 12 months is now 85.98. The lowest average for any 12 month period during the Labor years was 86.64.
  • The percentage of all workers with full-time jobs is 68.38%, only marginally above the all-time low of 67.78% recorded last year.
  • The total of underutilised workers – the sum of unemployed and underemployed – rose in February to 1,841,000, the third highest quarterly figure since this statistic was first recorded in 1978. The only two higher quarters were both since Turnbull became PM and Senator Michaelia Cash employment minister.

The response of the global markets to the uninspiring jobs data was to punish all Australians. Again.

The Aussie dollar fell against the U.S. dollar recently, continuing a slide of almost cents 4 since late January. Both the U.S. and Aussie dollars have tumbled dramatically against virtually all other major currencies over the last year.

The Aussie fell more than one yen against the Japanese yen recently, following a 3.6 yen fall over the last 12 months. It fell another half UK pence against the pound recently, following a 7.1 pence fall over the last 12 months. And it fell a further half euro cent against the Euro recently, after falling 8 cents over the last 12 months.

Reading the Australian media, however, everything is fine.

Rupert Murdoch’s influential MarketWatch rejoiced that ‘Australia employment grows in February’.

‘Australia jobless rate ticked higher in February, full-time jobs surged’, declared FXStreet.

The Australian, naturally, put the best spin possible on the dismal results:

'Australia’s job market continues to set a scorching pace for job creation, following the addition of more than 400,000 jobs to the economy in 2017. But progress toward full employment that could fuel inflation looks a lot cooler.'

Another item in The Australian quoted an upbeat Commsec economist Craig James observing that February was the 17th straight month of jobs growth:

'When will the record-breaking run of job gains end? The forward-looking indicators like job advertisements suggest that employment will continue to lift in coming months — so a near-term correction is not envisaged.'

Even the ABC avoided embarrassing the Coalition with a rigorous report. Its puff piece was headed ‘Unemployment edges up to 5.6% despite more jobs created’. It emphasised that ‘Job numbers have now grown for a record 17 consecutive months according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data'.

Most reports appear to have echoed Michaelia Cash’s media release which boasted ‘Record total and full-time employment growth — largest annual increase ever recorded’.

Maybe. Meanwhile, Australia’s ranking in the OECD on the jobless rate slipped again. From sixth in 2013, it was recently ranked 17th. Its world ranking? Now equal 70th — its lowest ranking ever. Equal with Panama.

You know Panama. The banana republic where untaxed mega profits ripped out of Australia by the big corporations are safely stashed away.

You can follow Alan Austin on Twitter @AlanAustin001.

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