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.