Queensland’s not-so-sunny numbers drag down national jobs rate

No doubt the gloomsters will make a meal out of the small rise in the jobless rate to 5.7% in this week’s June labour force data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, but that would be over-egging what was on the whole a modestly encouraging report.

The June rate of 5.7% was up from the revised 5.6%, (from 5.5%) in May, seasonally adjusted.

But any “shock horror” reaction should be tempered by a couple of points in the report. These were the number of jobs created in the month — net employment rose 10,300 to 11.669 million in the month, full-time jobs fell 4400 to 8.144 million people and part-time employment rose 14,800 to 3.524 million.

The rise in part-time workers and the fall in full-time jobs is consistent with an economy like Australia’s – sluggish, and showing below-trend growth.

A little more encouraging was the rise in participation in June to 65.3%, up from 65.2% in May, which is always good news, particularly given participation has been the one black spot on this government’s jobs record.

Yes, the participation rise drove the unemployment jump of 23,700 people to 709,300 in June.

That’s now higher than it was at the depths of the GFC in 2009, but any rise in the participation rate is good news as more people are looking for work, even if they haven’t yet found it.

And to confound the gloomsters and economists, there was a rise of 8.8 million hours (to 1.638 billion) worked in June, which partially offsets the 11 million hour fall in June.

That’s even better given there was a fall in full-time jobs and a rise in part-time employment (perhaps from full-time labour being switched to fewer hours or days), which meant the number of hours worked should have been a bit lower.

The trend series, which smooths out the monthly fluctuations, showed a 3700 rise in employment and 12,000 rise in unemployment in the month, while the unemployment rate was up to 5.7% from 5.6% and the participation rate was steady at 65.3%.

The national numbers would in fact have been quite strong but for Queensland, which saw a massive 0.5 point rise in unemployment to 6.4% – the highest level in the Sunshine State since 2003.

Victoria also saw a big jump, 0.4 points to 5.8% unemployment, but that was driven by a big rise in participation. Queensland’s participation rate stayed flat. The result means there are now fewer Queenslanders in work than when Campbell Newman replaced Anna Bligh as premier.

This article first appeared on Crikey.


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