Friday, 11th April 2014

RUBBERY FIGURES

Just before lunchtime yesterday, Australians were confronted with news nobody predicted. Seemingly in complete disregard of the developing narrative of major recent job losses in manufacturing and to some extent mining, the Australian Bureau of Statistics told us that unemployment in fact declined since February.

The figure of 5.8 per cent caught almost everyone on the hop. Vittorio Hernandez at the International Business Times assumed it was a fait accompli that the rate would hit an 11-year-high of 6.1 per cent. Even the International Monetary Fund predicted that the jobless rate would stay above 6 per cent throughout the next year.

But statistics don’t lie…or do they? The response to yesterday’s announcement has been almost devoid of analysis, even in financial markets, which reacted by propping up the Australian dollar. Almost devoid, but not quite. Callum Pickering in the Business Spectator urges analysts, markets, reporters and the public to stop focusing on the simple statistic – which, after all, simply reports the percentage of people who haven’t been able to get at least one hour of work in the reporting week, and ignores everyone who has given up looking – and to start focussing on the underlying trend figures. His analysis includes a tell-tale graphic which displays an almost inverse correlation between the unemployment rate and the participation rate, which suggests that as it gets harder and harder to find work, governments benefit perversely from an apparently attractive economic statistic.

So while it may have briefly seemed that the losses in car manufacturing, BP, Qantas, federal and state public services, etc, etc, might have been offset by new jobs which weren’t being reported, the truth is that the Australian labour market is a bit of a dead duck. To date, the government’s only plan seems to be to repeal the carbon and mining taxes, which most economists agree will have little effect.

Russell Marks
Politicoz Editor

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The truth about unemployment in Australia

"On a seasonally-adjusted basis, the unemployment rate declined to 5.8 per cent in March, beating market expectations, which shot the Australian dollar to its highest level since November. But had the market focused on the correct data, they would have reached a very different conclusion. Month after month, the market incorrectly assesses the labour market because they focus on the wrong data."

Also: Why the jobs figures don’t add up (Callum Pickering, Business Spectator, 13 March 2014)

Tony Abbott goes to China "to be a friend", not to chase deals

"In remarks that are a clear attempt to move past recent frictions in the relationship, and to segue from his warm reception in Japan and South Korea to a round of intense diplomacy in the People’s Republic, he told a major business forum in Boao: ‘Australia is not in China to do a deal, but to be a friend’."

Also: Tony Abbott in China shows skills beyond his years (Mark Kenny, Sydney Morning Herald, 8 April 2014)

Joe Bullock rejects United Voice union's call to relinquish WA Senate position over "inexcusable" speech

"Joe Bullock, the controversial Labor Senate candidate at the centre of a row about his political future, has defied calls to stand aside and says it is not his current intention to go anywhere. The union which helped parachute Mr Bullock into Labor's number one spot on the West Australian Senate ticket is now calling on the controversial union leader to quit."

Also: Bullock: the straw that breaks the camel's back? (Barrie Cassidy, The Drum)

Bob Carr drops a clanger on Labor

"The publication of Diary Of A Foreign Minister could not have come at worse time for Labor – although any time seems to be the worst time for the ALP. Coming as it does immediately after the party's poor showing in the WA poll, the book…and the ongoing tit-for-tat that will be the result of its publication, will drown out current noises being made on party reform."

Also: Why ending union ties would change little for Labor (Bradley Bowden, The Conversation)

And: The challenge for Labor (Neal Lawson, Evatt Foundation)

In the government’s hierarchy of values, is free speech at the top?

"There are valid reasons to protect even inaccurate speech in order to safeguard the principle of freedom of expression. But the issue here is that the government is seeking to do so in an inconsistent manner… In doing so, the government is exposing its own hierarchy of values in which freedom of expression is not actually paramount."

Also: Who's afraid of anti-discrimination laws? (Rachel Ball, The Drum)