Friday, June 13, 2008

Rudd governs blindfolded

What the Canberra Times is able to report about the state of Australia's jobs market is about to shrink.

Inside today's paper we report that the ACT remains the only state or territory with more vacant jobs than people wanting them.

The ACT literally has over-full employment.

But we won't be able to report that for much longer.

The sources that I have used to compile such reports are the Australian Labour Force survey, which yesterday found that 4,600 people were unemployed in the ACT and the Australian Job Vacancies survey which in February found that that the Territory had 4,900 vacant jobs.

The next job vacancies survey, conducted in April, is due out on June 26.

It will be the last.

The Bureau of Statistics is axing the survey as part of its drive to find $22 million in savings in order to cope with budget cuts...

Regarded as far more reliable than the private survey which counts only those jobs advertised, the Bureau's survey has been conducted since May 1979.

An announcement from the Bureau's head Brian Pink says it will be suspended during 2008-09 and “may be reinstated” later.

Mr Pink has outlined plans to axe nine of the Bureau's high profile surveys during 2008-09; among them the survey of motor vehicle usage, information technology and private hospitals.

In addition it will wind back the quality of its all-important monthly Labour Force survey and its monthly retail survey.

The treatment of the Labour survey will be particularly brutal.

From next month the number of people surveyed to obtain each month's unemployment figure will be cut by one quarter. Until now roughly 54,400 have been surveyed each month. From July it will be 41,100.

In the ACT 1,600 people will be surveyed instead of 2,200.

The Bureau concedes that the change will make the June and July employment figures harder than usual to compare.

However it says that it needs to cut the sample size at once rather than phase in the change “in order to maximise savings in 2008/09”.

It says some of the detailed results for Western Australia and South Australia will become significantly less reliable.

In addition there will be no Statistical Yearbook in 2009 and the questions in the 2011 census will be unchanged from the (deeply flawed) questions asked in 2006, when a poorly-worded question about volunteering was added at the insistence of the previous Treasurer.

And regular work will be become more spaced out.

The weightings used to compile the consumer price index are normally adjusted every five years. At a time when the makeup of what we buy is rapidly changing the adjustments will be throttled back to once every six years.

The Rudd government came to office promising to make “evidence-based”decisions.

Its budget cuts will destroy much of the evidence.