Australian labour force data – mixed news with little to be happy about

Today’s release by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) of the Labour Force data for January 2012 shows that the deterioration in the Australian economy towards the end of the year has temporarily ceased although working hours have fallen sharply. The data shows that employment has recovered a little and unemployment fell as a response – both good signs. The employment growth, however, is dominated by part-time jobs growth and underemployment is almost certain to have risen in January. The fall in hours worked is consistent with that conclusion. So the news is mixed this month. I still consider the Federal government to be undermining our prosperity by pursuing its obsession to get the budget back into surplus in the coming year. The most disturbing aspect of the labour market data over the last year or more has been the appalling state of the youth labour market. Teenage females did gain some modest relief this month from the relentless loss of jobs, but teenage males continued to go backwards. This should be a policy priority for the government. But they have gone missing in action – lost in their surplus mania. My assessment of today’s results – mixed news with little to be happy about.

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