Politics Analysis

Morrison and Frydenberg set multiple 'all-time worst' records on jobs

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Cartoon by Mark David/@mdavidcartoons

The Morrison years have been appalling for Australian workers. Alan Austin reveals the actual state of employment — because the mainstream media refuses to do so.

AS GLOBAL RECESSIONS go, the COVID-induced downturn has been extremely short. Deep, yes, but brief. Only two OECD member countries were in recession for two quarters — Austria and Switzerland. Three averted recession completely — Ireland, Chile and Turkey. None are in recession now.

Jobless rates are back to pre-COVID levels, or close to, in the majority of OECD economies, including Australia. But the harm done to Australian families has been worse under the Morrison Government than during any of the previous six global recessions.

Fresh records set in recent years include the following.

1. Record number of unemployed

The highest number of jobless Australians on record until Josh Frydenberg came along as Treasurer was 960,200 in December 1992 during the early 1990s global recession.

It stayed below 660,000 through most of the time Peter Costello and Wayne Swan were treasurers. 

It reached a new all-time high of 982,400 in June 2020, then broke the one million barrier for the first time in July (yes, we are using raw numbers here rather than percentages because the Government uses raw numbers.)

2. Highest jobless rate this century

In July 2020, after Frydenberg had been Treasurer for 23 months, the jobless rate hit 7.45%, the highest since November 1998. It was down to a nominal 4.52% in August this year, but is that valid?

3. Highest number of people working zero hours

Every month shows some “employed” Australians working zero hours because of annual and long service leave and other reasons. The average for the last ten Augusts – before this year’s – is 5.74% of the workforce.

This August has shown an unusual increment, however, which suggests many of those “working” zero hours are in reality unemployed. It is up to a staggering 1,157,000 workers, which is 8.48% of the workforce. That’s an increase over the August average of 2.74%.

This strongly suggests the actual August jobless rate was 4.52% – as officially stated – plus 2.74% equals 7.26%. That is the worst real jobless rate since 1998. This ranks 25th in the OECD, the lowest ranking ever.

4. All-time high jobless women

The raw number of women unemployed reached 477,400 in July 2020, the highest ever. The jobless rate was 7.5%, the highest since 1998.

5. Highest number of unemployed youth this century

Jobless numbers for 15-19 year-olds climbed to 163,400 in December 2020, a rate of 20.84% of the population, the highest (not counting Januaries) since 1997.

6. All-time lowest proportion of full-time jobs

The percentage of full-time workers dropped below 69% for the first time ever in late 2015, after two failed Coalition budgets. It slipped below 68% for the first time in September 2016 after Scott Morrison’s first budget. It fell further in early 2017, well before the pandemic, and hit an all-time low of 67.8% in October last year and again in March this year.

7. Underemployment all-time record

The number of Australians needing to work more hours hit one million in August 2014, less than a year after the Coalition inherited the world’s best economy. This then worsened, peaking at 1,786,100 in April 2020 – almost double the highest of any previous administration.

As a proportion of people employed, underemployment peaked in April last year at 14.6%.

8. Worst long term jobless this Century

The long-term unemployed are those who have looked for work for more than a year. This reached 259,000 in March this year, the highest since 1995.

9. Worst shrinkage in the labour force on record

It is extremely rare that the labour force declines year on year in any wealthy country with a rising population. This has happened only four times in Australia since records began. The first three were in 1991, '92 and '93 during the early nineties global recession. The worst of these was a contraction of 0.62% to July 1991.

The other declines were minimal.

The only time since 1993 was in 2020 when the workforce declined by a thumping 3.76%. This was due to discouraged workers abandoning employment and sponging off families or friends or living rough.

This is the only time on record the labour force actually shrank over a two-year period, by 1.29% to May 2020.

The labour force at the end of August was still below the August 2019 level, two years ago.

10. All-time worst job participation

Australia’s optimum job participation rate is between 64.9% and 65.5%. Below that shows too many discouraged workers have left the workforce. Above that reflects students driven by poverty into the workforce and/or elderly retirees forced back to work.

Job participation stayed within that range for almost all of the period 2006 to 2017, despite the global financial crisis. It clicked over 66% for the first time in May 2019, well before the pandemic and peaked at 66.3% in March this year.

So where are we?

This brings to 30 the number of dismal records set by the Morrison Government, clearly the least competent since World War II. The others are documented here and here.

It is hard to overstate the damage done to Australian families by the Coalition’s failed economic policies — going back well before the pandemic. Given the booming global economy and the demand for Australia’s exports, there is no excuse for these poor outcomes.

It is equally difficult to exaggerate the destructive impact of the craven mainstream media organisations – News Corp, Nine Entertainment, the ABC and commercial radio and television – which refuse to report these realities.

Alan Austin’s defamation matter is nearly over. You can read the latest update here and contribute to the crowd-funding hereAlan Austin is an Independent Australia columnist and freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @alanaustin001.

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