Friday, September 16, 2011

We're working, but differently

The Age
We are becoming a nation of service providers. Manufacturing, until ten years ago Australia’s biggest employer, is a shadow of its former self. In the year to August it has shed 53,800 workers, 30,000 in the past three months.

New detailed labour force figures show “health care and social assistance” is both Australia’s biggest employer and second fastest-growing employer, taking on 44,500 extra workers in the past year, eclipsed only by “accommodation and catering” which took on 44,600.

What the new growth industries have in common is that they don’t “make things,” to use the language beloved of politicians.

They are also predominantly female.

In the past year 101,500 extra jobs have been found for women, only 38,900 for men.

The biggest loser - “agriculture, forestry and fishing” which shed 63,000 jobs in the year to August - is predominantly male.

The only clear exception to the trend is mining, a male-dominated industry whose labour force has surged 14 per cent in the past year - more than other sector... But in absolute numbers it is still not able to offer that many jobs. It put on an extra 27,800 workers in the year to August, well down on the number put on in public administration and safety and finance and insurance.

Even after stellar growth, mining employs just 2 per cent of Australia’s workers. Health care and social assistance employs 12 per cent, retail sales 11 per cent, education and training 7 per cent, and the finance industry 4 per cent.

All of these big employers provide services.

The exceptions are manufacturing - which employs 8 per cent of Australia’s workers, down from 9 per cent a year ago - and construction which employs 9 per cent and piled on an extra 31,700 in work associated with the mining boom.

Both men and women who lose jobs are finding it harder to get new ones. The average time out of work for a man has climbed from 41 to 45 weeks in the past year. The average time out of work for a woman has climbed from 31 to 42 weeks.

Long-term unemployment is climbing again. The number of people out of work for a year or more climbed 15 per cent to an 8 year high of 133,100.

A Westpac survey released yesterday found households increasing concerned about jobs.

The number of households worried about unemployment climbed 8.5 per cent in September after climbing 2 per cent in August. Concern about unemployment is up 44 per cent over the year.

“Until this month it was the managers and
professionals who became the most worried about jobs,” said Westpac chief economist Bill Evans. “The first to become more worried about jobs was the labourers and machinery operators and this, in part, may have be due to the unwinding of the stimulus programmes such as building the education revolution.”

“Since August concern has spread, which is not surprising given that reports of job shedding are spreading to the retail and the finance sectors.”

“Both the level of unemployment expectations and the rate of change in expectations are now giving a strong signal that households are already under stress and that an interest rate hike is not called for.”

Published in today's SMH and Age

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