Australia records lowest unemployment for two years

Labour force figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show “official” unemployment fell 0.2 percent points in December to hit a two year low of just 5.0 percent.

Despite the jobless numbers falling 25,400 to 598,700, the biggest factor contributing to the fall in the unemployment rate was the fall in the number of people looking for work. The participation rate fell 0.2 percent to 65.8 percent.

Despite full time positions increasing 1,700 places and part time positions increasing 600 places, there were falls in the aggregate number of hours worked across the country, decreasing 3.4 million hours to 1,599 million hours worked.

But if you ask any social or volunteer worker on the streets, not all is as rosy as the figures suggest. The Salvation Army says at least 80,000 Australians needed their help for the first time last year. According to a report from the Salvo’s, two million Australians now live in poverty, or 1 in 10 Australians. 50 percent of Australia’s low income households have reported experiencing cash flow problems with a quarter of them needing to increase credit card debt, exhaust savings or borrow money from Friends and Family.

This is the emerging group of people titled the working poor. These are people who would like more work, but have been unable to find it. With housing and living costs increasing faster than wage inflation, thanks to our housing bubble and sky-rocking household debt levels, this group of people are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet. Many need multiple jobs to keep up with the pace of the living.

The definition of employed persons for the purposes of the official ABS statistics includes persons who worked without pay for more than 1 hour per week in a family business or on a farm – certainly not sufficient to live off.

Private gauges of “true” unemployment in Australia paint a much bleaker picture. According to Roy Morgan Research, unemployment jumped in December 2010 by 0.8 percent points to 7.7 percent. They believe there are 903,000 Australian’s out of work. Underemployment – people who have a job, but is looking for more work or hours is up 2 percent to 8.8 percent. Roy Morgan’s figures indicate over 1 million Australians are underemployed. In total, last month, 1.93 million or 16.5% of Australians are either unemployed or underemployed.

» 6202.0 – Labour Force, Australia, Dec 2010 – The Australian Bureau of Statistics, 13th January 2011.

» As school leavers hit the job market December unemployment jumps 88,000 to 903,000 (7.7%, up 0.8%) & Underemployment is up 216,000 to 1,028,000 (8.8%, up 2.0%) Now 1.93 million (16.5%) Australians are Unemployed or Underemployed – Roy Morgan, 10th January 2011.

» Perceptions of Poverty – The Salvation Army, 18th October 2010.


  1. Thanks for posting this article. I have been saying this stuff too for a while, I just have no numerical or statistical analysis. I know (and have known) a CentreLink employee, and a Lady that worked for MissionAustralia. The picture I was painted regarding unemployment, poverty, and under-employment is dismal.

    There are many under-employed CentreLink ‘clients’ (thats what they call them now), that should be considered as unemployed, or counted as such. The tax they pay into the system is far less than what they may receive in benefits, and their income is not enough to get by without assistance. But ‘work’ no less that 1 hour a week and you can receive full benefits (as long as your not earning $3,500 bucks for the hour, exageration!) and *not* be counted as unemployed. There are quite a few shades of grey in this under-employed/unemployed region (region like defined in a Venn-Diagram), that there are those that are truely under-employed, and the under-employed that should be counted as unemployed. Both my (previous) CentreLink and MissionAustralia aquaintence put unemployemnt at about 17-18%, and total welfare recipients at 22% (from CentreLink).

    17-18% comes from counting the unemployed, defining a more distictive line separating the unemployed from the under-employed. Dropping some weigthing measures, also counting people as unemployed when they apply for benefits and not average their previous working hours over the year (1 hour a week!), I could go one.

    The Roy Morgan is the closest (numerical) measure I’ve seen, I think a few years back it was the Roy Morgan analysis that put unemployment at 14.9% around June 2009.

    On a tangent, notice the people that are still earning a ‘decent’ salary waking up at 5:30 in the morning and on their to work at 6:15am. Man! scary stuff. Are we so job anxious?

  2. My apologies for the additiona post, I forgot to mention the small business owners, contractors, and sales people that still have their doors (only just) open for a trickle of coins, and have little to know benefit from their ventures.

    Unemployed or under-employed?

  3. Has the Australian government changed the way it calculates the unemployment figure compared to 30, 60 or 90 years ago? If so, does anybody have the details of how this data was and is used to determine the final figure?

  4. I thought there was a “skills shortage” snigger snigger. Didn’t the Business Council of Australia recently say that because the economy is expanding so rapidly we need lots and lots of immigration to meet labour demand or we will miss out on a fantastic opportunity to grow ? snigger snigger

  5. I guess we have a “skills shortage” the same way we have a “house shortage” snigger snigger

  6. LostInOz, yes the calculations of Unemployment changed under Howard and reverted back in December 09 to usual methodology. What is the difference between methodologies? I don’t know.

    How does this differ from any other methodology, if any, over the last hundred years? I don’t know.

  7. @Robert,
    “Sanity is not statistical”

    @LostInOZ (I)
    “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen”

    @LostInOz (II)
    “The chocolate ration in 1983 was 30 grams per week…In the year 1984, the chocolate ration went up to 25 grams per week.”

    All three quotes:
    – George Orwell, 1984

    It kind of looks and sounds a bit like that.

  8. I definitely think that one day soon we are going to see real numbers of employment and of this so called housing shortage(actually it is already showing as an oversupply). The govt and other agencies are doing every thing they can to make the numbers look good but it will all come out before we know it. The same thing with the Chinese they are fudging all their numbers as well. You can only hide the truth for so long until eventually it will all have to come out.


  9. Surely by now all of you are aware how many lies are told by all areas of government and of course all those in the realestate game.

    Want a real snapshot of what things are like? go to your local supermarket….. I did.

    Yesterday and today I needed to buy some staples and a few extra items from my local supermarket, so off I went.

    I was quite amazed at what I came across as I went through the vegetable, poultry, meat, and frozen foods sections….

    Loads of stuff marked right down because it was getting close to use by….. now normally you do see this from time to time, but the amount marked down was huge…. I asked one of the staff what was going on and he remarked that people are barely buying anything as they have little cash…..

    I bought a whole load of top grade meats and vege for bugger all and loaded up my freezer, what a great situation for me….. but an indicator of the truth as well…… general staples consumption I think shows the true health of the economy, if this is anything to go by, someone had better call a doctor….. quick

  10. Hi Admin,

    I’m in Victoria and operate in the outer north-west suburb of Sunbury, I’ve also noted that there are approx 74 vacant rental properties and just on 400 homes for sale there as well, so hardly the stuff of shortages. There have been articles flowing in the local regional papers around here about the huge rise in families needing food packages as well as utility “stamps” to assist in paying for basic services. I think the real picture is ugly, the various government levels are simply doing window dressing with stats to make people feel better.

    Too bad you don’t have a section where scans of these articles could be uploaded, some make interesting reading, unfortunately all these local papers don’t publish on the web so I can’t list links.

  11. Romsey,

    You are spot on the money, its the first stages of the crash! As people start to run out of money they cut back in areas that dont show thay are in trouble such as food and retail. The next stage will be a big drop off in new car sales when this takes place you know its time to head for the doors . If you are holding debts sell what you have to to get out of debt becuse the crash it just about to hit and when it is over only people that did not have big debts at the start will be in a position to take advantage.

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