An election-driven burst of part-time employment has pushed the unemployment rate down to 5.7 per cent, disguising a continuing slide in the number of Australians employed full-time.
Employment climbed 26,200 in July, according to figures released by the Bureau of Statistics on Thursday, but the jump was the net result of a 45,400 slide in full-time employment offset by an unusually large 71,600 jump in part-time employment.
Full-time employment has slid 64,500 since December while part-time employment has surged 136,600. The net result of 72,300 extra Australians in work reflects a hollowing out of employment rather than a boost in hours. There were scarcely any more hours worked in July than in December.
The international definition used by the Bureau of Statistics requires it to count someone as "employed" even if they work only one hour per week.
"With more than 86 per cent of total net jobs created over the last 12 months part-time, it is clear that Australia is becoming a nation of part-time employment growth with all the attendant negative consequences," said Bill Mitchell, director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity at the University of Newcastle.
The Australian Electoral Commission employed around 70,000 polling officials for the July 2 federal election, many of whom kept working in the following weeks during the count.
A few weeks later, the Australian Bureau of Statistics employed 38,000 field officers to collect census forms, most of whom will show up in the August employment figures.
BIS Shrapnel economist Kishti Sen said there were other, longer-term, reasons for a surge in part-time jobs that has pushed up the part-time share of employment up from 28 per cent to 32 per cent of total over the past decade.
"Businesses that employ a greater share of part-time workers, including accommodation and food services, retail trade, and arts and recreation are doing well on the back of healthy household spending and a recovery in tourism expenditure," she said. "Part-time employment is also benefiting from a cautious approach by businesses. They are inclined towards taking on part-time workers to have the flexibility to bring workers on and off their books and to contain costs."
Employment minister Michaelia Cash welcomed what she said was evidence of a resilient economy that saw employers continuing to hire at record levels.
The figures show Western Australia and the eastern states swapping places with the state that once had Australia's best labour market recording an unemployment rate of 6.3 per cent, well above the Victoria and NSW rates of 5.9 and 5.2 per cent.In The Age and Sydney Morning Herald