Thursday, November 09, 2006

Want work? Head to Canberra

The ACT is a workers paradise - and how, according to today's jobs numbers.

My story for tomorrow's Canberra Times is below the fold.

Australia’s jobs boom appears to have stalled. The number of Australians in jobs turned down last month for the first time in almost a year.

But according to the latest employment figures from the Bureau of Statistics there remains one exceptionally bright spot – the ACT.

The Bureau’s survey suggests that the number of people employed Australia-wide fell 32,100 in October, but in the ACT another 900 workers gained jobs edging the Territory’s unemployment rate closer to zero.

The unemployment rate in the ACT is now just 2.6 per cent – the lowest since figures began to be kept in their present form, and the lowest in the nation.

By contrast NSW is reporting an unemployment rate of 5.1 per cent, Victoria 4.8, and South Australia 4.6 per cent.

Only the resource-rich states of Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory approach the ACT with unemployment rates of between 3 and 4 per cent.

Nationwide the unemployment rate is 4.6 per cent.

The raw numbers suggest that almost everyone in the ACT who wants a job now has one. There are 262,500 adults in the ACT. Only 5,200 of them were looking for work last month.

Because at any point in time there will always be some people out of work as they move between jobs the figures suggest that in practical terms unemployment in the ACT may already be close to zero.

The Chief Minister yesterday welcomed the news saying “What we have in the ACT today is virtually full employment. This is an unequivocal sign of the strength and confidence in the ACT economy.”

The Prime Minister said he wasn’t concerned by the national decline in the number of Australians in jobs. “What you have seen this month is a fall in the number of people in work. Given the furious pace at which people have got jobs, some kind of correction of this kind is to be expected,” Mr Howard said.

The Treasurer Peter Costello said that Peter Costello said that the labour force figures were apt to “bounce around” from month to month, but that what was important was that “we have now had unemployment under 5 per cent for six months”.

The unemployment rate in the ACT has been below 5 per cent since 2001. It has been below 3 per cent since June, and the figures suggest that the ACT’s tight labour market is pushing female employment to the limit of what is achievable.

Traditionally women are less likely to be employed than men. They spend more time away from the workforce caring for children.

But in the ACT women now make up 49 per cent of those employed – a proportion which on the face of it cannot get much higher.

When figures began to be kept in their present form back three decades ago the proportion was 35 per cent. Even as recently as 1990 women had only 41 per cent of the jobs.

In that regard at least, the ACT is leading the nation.