I'm out of the hammock to look at some facts about Australia's labour market

Thu, 18 Jan 2018  |  

There was another round of euphoria as the monthly labour force data hit the screens. The data showed a nice 34,700 rise in employment in December which brought the total rise in jobs in 2017 to 403,100.

This is good news, to be sure, but how good is it really? What is the context for this increase in employment and how is Australia going in an ever vibrant and dynamic global economy?

Of some concern, Australia’s unemployment rate remains at 5.5 per cent – it actually ticked up from 5.4 per cent the prior month. Interestingly, and something less favourable, is the fact that the unemployment rate has been below 5.5 per cent for just two months (October and November 2017) in the last four and half years. Where is that 5 per cent or lower full-employment target everyone reckons we are near?

What’s more interesting, and a sign of the policy sloth that Australia is enduring at the moment, is that around the world, unemployment rates are falling and are impressively low.

Sure each country will have its quirks but have a look at our 5.5 per cent against these countries.

The unemployment rate is 4.1 per cent in the US, 4.3 per cent in the UK, 3.6 per cent in Germany, 2.7 per cent in Japan, 4.6 per cent in New Zealand, 4.0 per cent in Norway and even 5.7 per cent in Canada which is down a thumping 3 percentage points from the GFC peak.

Which makes the 5.5 per cent in Australia look rather pedestrian.

Into the mix throw in record low wages growth and near record high underemployment in Australia and it is safe to say that the labour market is still a long way from full health.

Oh well… back to the hammock and that great fiction I was reading.

 

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