Friday, June 18, 2010

Let's not pretend this is about jobs, okay? Mining as an employer

Employment in mining has shot to a record high, but the industry remains a pint-sized generator of jobs.

Detailed employment figures released yesterday show an extra 14,400 mining jobs were created in the six months to to May, roughly offsetting the number of mining jobs lost in the previous twelve months.

By contrast the construction industry piled on 40,000 jobs, the transport industry 24,000 jobs, health and aged care another 24,000 and agriculture 22,000.

Some of the extra jobs in these industries would have been related to mining. Most would not.

Employing just 179,400 Australians, mining is outranked by all but one of the 19 industry groupings used by the Bureau of Statistics. Even "arts and recreation," employing 193,400 Australians, is a greater provider of jobs...

Australia's top employer, health and aged care now provides jobs to 1.2 million Australians, retail remains in second place, employing 1.18 million and construction moves into third place employing a record 1 million Australians.

Manufacturing continues to shrink, employing a record-low 972,000 Australians in May - just 8 per cent of the workforce. Mining employs 1.6 per cent nationwide.

Only in Western Australia is mining a significant employer, providing 6 per cent of that state's jobs. In NSW it employs less than 1 per cent, in Victoria less than half a per cent.

The figures lend weight to a claim by Treasury boss Ken Henry in evidence to a Senate committee last month that mining did not "save Australia from recession".

"It is true that Australia avoided a recession," he told the committee, "but the Australian mining industry actually experienced quite a deep recession - in the first six months of 2009 it shed 15 per cent of its workers. Mining investment collapsed, mining output collapsed."

Sensitivity analysis conducted by the Herald/Age finds that even given the small number of mining workers polled in the employment survey there is a 95 per cent or greater probability that mining employment did fall in that time and rose afterwards.

Mining employment has returned to the peak reached in November 2008 before the full force of the financial crisis, and on a trend basis is at an all-time high.

Coal mining employs 36,700 Australians, oil and gas 17,800 and metal ore mining 56,700. Around 28,000 Australians work in exploration.

The figures show that while Australia's unemployment rate has fallen from a high of 5.8 per cent to 5.2 per cent, the number of Australians out of work for more than a year has continued climbing.

Some 115,000 Australians had been out of work for a year or more in May, almost double the number at the start of the crisis.

The Australian Council of Social Service expects the number to keep rising.

"Long-term unemployment is a delayed indicator of an economic downturn and so we expect the figure to increase, said chief executive Clare Martin.

“People who have been out of the workforce for many months or years often require intensive assistance to move back to work."

ACOSS called for a paid work experience program for long-term unemployed people to them back into mainstream employment.

“Australians also need an adequate income while they look for work, said Ms Martin. "A single unemployed person gets just $231 per week which barely covers the costs of essentials."

Our biggest employers...

Health and care - 1.2 million
Retail trade - 1.18 million
Construction - 1.0 million
Manufacturing - 972,000

Our smallest...

Real Estate and rental - 197,400
Arts and recreation - 193,400
Mining and exploration - 179,400
Electricity, water & gas - 136,300

ABS 6291.0.55.003

Published in today's SMH and Age 

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. Where we work now - it's not where you think

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