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Josh’s Jobless Jargon

by John Haly

Josh Frydenberg is spruiking the coalition’s accomplishments claiming, “Our Govt’s economic plan to create more jobs is working”. However, his statistics based on these claims crumble under scrutiny.

In essence, there are five claims he tweeted recently.

  • Unemployment has dropped to 4% in Feb,
  • 77k jobs created
  • The participation rate is at a record high
  • Female unemployment is at a 48 yr low of 3.8%
  • 375k more Aussies in work than pre-COVID

Real Unemployment

Despite an attitude of incredulity at the idea that we have such a trim level of unemployment, Josh boasted of unemployment being “the equal lowest in 48 years”. The government is very proud of its apparent economic credentials. So are we to believe that unemployment is the lowest in years with, ascending rental rates and the cost of living, escalating petrol prices, but for obvious reasons wages are stagnating? ABS reported seasonally adjusted unemployment approaching this figure, last in August 2008 (4.1%) and February 2008 (4.0%). So 48 years ago Josh? My maths is not what it used to be.

So employment is better now, only a couple of years out from cataclysmic bushfires that caused over $100B in damages amid a continuing pandemic and massive floods damages? We are also just out of a politically recognised “drop-in-real-GDP” recession but still in the per capita recession that began in mid-2018 (acknowledged in 2019) and showed no real prospect of improvement. Does anything about our Economy ring right?

ABS’s absent considerations

Cracks are showing when it comes to the ABS unemployment statistics, which the government is quoting ad nauseam. Social media is replete with scepticism. There is a lack of credibility in employment stats when one hour’s work represents employment. It is not one hour a week; as they review the previous three weeks from your reference week. Go read my June 2020 article titled “Unemployment by COVID exploded” under the subheading “6.2%? Really?” for the explanation.

The issue is not just the one-hour criteria. It is the zero-hours criteria that should also concern you. People in the Gig economy who have been given zero hours and zero pay should not be considered employed. Yet that is precisely what ABS does for reasons that have nothing to do with it being a measure of domestic internal unemployment. The ABS states: “The term ‘labour force’, as defined by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in the international standards, is associated with a particular approach to the measurement of employment and unemployment.

International or Domestic terminal

ABS follows the ILO methodology measures, for international comparative purposes. The methodology was never designed to measure the domestically internal unemployment of any country, because it excludes too many people. The integrity of a domestic measure of unemployment has to be questioned if, for example, it discounts the numbers of people just because they work in the Gig economy under zero-hour contracts. Gig workers are still counted as employed by the ABS even when given zero hours and zero pay.

Every other measure of unemployment is far larger than the ABS’s measure. Still, people are largely unaware of the size of the alternate and more accurate measurements of domestic employment. It is not merely that adding the 130,800 people on zero-hours to the ABS measure of 563,300 unemployed – for international comparative purposes – would raise the 4.04% figure for global comparison to 694,100 or 4.98%. There are more extensive assessments. For example, the sheer number of JobSeeker stats has only recently dropped just below a million people.

At 949,937 people on Jobseeker in February – a number Josh Frydenberg has demonstrated familiarity with – it stretches credibility that 949K versus 563K are simply relegated to margins of error.

Beyond these numbers, there are the estimations made by Roy Morgan, which indicate that 1,227,000 people were unemployed in February 2022. ABS and Roy Morgan’s unemployment figures are estimates based on surveys. At the very least, Jobseeker is a hard count of people receiving a benefit. To review the history of all these numbers, post-recession, I have charted them in Fig 1.

 

Fig 1. various unemployment measures in Australia post-recession

 

Crossing lines

My reasoning for choosing any measure requires accepting the reasonable postulate, that any internal measure of unemployment should minimally accept that people who have worked zero hours should be included as unemployed. ABS does account for zero-hours workers. So if the current ABS figure and zero-hours workers were added together over the last two years, the graph reveals an interesting anomaly. There are two periods in which that combination exceeds the value of JobSeeker, and that is why Jobseeker by itself – although a hard count – does not represent domestic unemployment numbers.

The combination of ABS unemployment plus Zero-hours numbers exceeded the Jobseeker numbers twice in the last two years. The first occurred in April 2020, and then again for the three months from August to October 2021. Now the first one, to be fair, is at the recession’s start, and it is reasonable to ascribe that to the chaos of the time and errors in measurements. I have previously pointed out how often ABS altered at random intervals their unemployment measures reflecting much uncertainty in my aforementioned June 2020 article. But a sustained series of measures over three months draws different conclusions in a calmer time.

Crossing lines

My reasoning for choosing any measure requires accepting the reasonable postulate, that any internal measure of unemployment should minimally accept that people who have worked zero hours should be included as unemployed. ABS does account for zero-hours workers. So if the current ABS figure and zero-hours workers were added together over the last two years, the graph reveals an interesting anomaly. There are two periods in which that combination exceeds the value of JobSeeker, and that is why Jobseeker by itself – although a hard count – does not represent domestic unemployment numbers.

The combination of ABS unemployment plus Zero-hours numbers exceeded the Jobseeker numbers twice in the last two years. The first occurred in April 2020, and then again for the three months from August to October 2021. Now the first one, to be fair, is at the recession’s start, and it is reasonable to ascribe that to the chaos of the time and errors in measurements. I have previously pointed out how often ABS altered at random intervals their unemployment measures reflecting much uncertainty in my aforementioned June 2020 article. But a sustained series of measures over three months draws different conclusions in a calmer time.

Crossing lines

My reasoning for choosing any measure requires accepting the reasonable postulate, that any internal measure of unemployment should minimally accept that people who have worked zero hours should be included as unemployed. ABS does account for zero-hours workers. So if the current ABS figure and zero-hours workers were added together over the last two years, the graph reveals an interesting anomaly. There are two periods in which that combination exceeds the value of JobSeeker, and that is why Jobseeker by itself – although a hard count – does not represent domestic unemployment numbers.

The combination of ABS unemployment plus Zero-hours numbers exceeded the Jobseeker numbers twice in the last two years. The first occurred in April 2020, and then again for the three months from August to October 2021. Now the first one, to be fair, is at the recession’s start, and it is reasonable to ascribe that to the chaos of the time and errors in measurements. I have previously pointed out how often ABS altered at random intervals their unemployment measures reflecting much uncertainty in my aforementioned June 2020 article. But a sustained series of measures over three months draws different conclusions in a calmer time.

It indicates the absolutely unemployed with not even an hour of work for each month exceeded the Jobseeker’s hard count. However, that anomaly doesn’t factor in all the other reasons ABS undercounts people as unemployed, such as:

So what measurement methodology addresses these weaknesses and exclusions?

Answer: Roy Morgan’s employment and unemployment estimates!

Now the reasons for the gap between Jobseeker and Roy Morgan I previously explained in my article titled “Frydenberg’s maths problem”. So what does Roy Morgan show us regarding underemployment and unemployment? What does either ABS’s quarterly measure of Job vacancies or the Department of Employment’s monthly measure of internet Job vacancies tell us about the jobs available for folks looking for work?

The graph of those figures [Fig 2] shows the harsh reality of a paucity of job opportunities and a frightening level of underemployment and unemployment. But, unfortunately, this government has done little to rectify that plight. Frankly, when you consider their dismissal of the public service and their deliberate undermining of manufacturing, it has simply exacerbated the situation.

 

Fig 2. Under and unemployment in Australia 2013 – 2022 vs Job Vacancies

 

Solutions and reassessments

There are solutions to the unemployment crisis, such as a Federal Job Guarantee. However, there is a complete ideological unwillingness to implement such solutions because it would end wage stagnation. The private sector would have to compete with the government for workers by offering better wages and conditions.

So what does Roy Morgan say is the truth compared to Josh Frydenberg’s list of accomplishments with which we started?

  • Unemployment has risen to 8.5% in Feb an increase of 26,000 from January,
  • Employment fell by 163,000 to 13,216,000 in February, driven by a fall in part-time employment
  • The workforce dropped 137,000 in February
  • Female unemployment is also at 8.5% despite being a smaller proportion of the workforce [see Fig 3]
  • Employment is 344,000 higher than it was pre-COVID-19 (13,216,000 – 12,872,000).

 

Fig 3: Female Unemployment measure variations in Australia from 2019 to Feb 2022

 

The conclusion about Frydenberg’s claims leaves us with two options. That the man delivering the budget for the whole of the Australian economy has either

  1. no idea what the actual state of the economy is, or
  2. is a _ _ _ _ (well, I don’t want to be the one to say it – these guys are litigious, and I can’t afford it.)

 

This article was originally published on AUSTRALIA AWAKEN – IGNITE YOUR TORCHES and Independent Australia.

 

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5 comments

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  1. Florence nee Fedup

    Could it be government payments to people, for any reason, is good for the economy? Maybe, as it seems now, capitalism doesn’t need poverty to thrive. Poverty always weakens society.

  2. Harry Lime

    After observing nine years of these cretins,it’s a vain hope to expect honesty to suddenly appear.They deserve a flogging of biblical proportions.

  3. JudithW

    Well, if this is the same Roy Morgan putting ALP 10+ points in front of the LNP, in line with other polling, their numbers are probably close to reality.

  4. Kathryn

    Everything – absolutely EVERYTHING – that comes out of the lying, conniving mouths of the reprehensible political psychopaths in the LNP is either:

    1) an outrageous lie – so often told by the Mother and Father of ALL recidivist pathological liars, Scott Morrison! A lie that is ALWAYS preceded and followed by that infamous and thoroughly irritating self-satisfied, contemptuous SMIRK!

    2) a vicious, and thoroughly incredulous piece of scurrilous, character-assassinating slander used to discredit, maliciously defame or ridicule anyone and everyone who stand up to justifiably condemn or, understandably, oppose the LNP’s rising level of condescending arrogance, self-serving corruption, callous inhumanity and/or nauseating level of bible-thumping hypocrisy! This type of virulent, offensive “attack” is so often focused on our most vulnerable citizens but is now directed at Albanese and the ALP (and/or The Greens) especially when we are so close to a federal election which, if the polls are correct and, more importantly, if there is any type of JUSTICE in this nation, the deeply unpopular, totally corrupt, disingenuous, pathological LIAR, Morrison, is due to LOSE in spectacular fashion!

    3) a cynical, tongue-in-cheek, chest-beating piece of self-promoting BS that has absolutely NO connection to reality;

    4) an unspeakably vile, callously inhumane attack against the most vulnerable citizens in our community, especially the poor and/or ANYONE receiving any type of welfare! Members of the nauseating LNP go on and on attacking, degrading and vilifying the poor, the disenfranchised, the homeless and the disadvantaged YET refuse to realise that THEY are the worst, most prolific, non-achieving, taxpayer-funded political parasites in living memory! Morrison – a non-achieving political psychopath who has been exposed as the FIFTH HIGHEST PAID politician in the western world. This is IN SPITE of the fact that Morrison has been suspiciously “dumped” from just about every job he has EVER failed to hold before he became one of the worst, most corrupt political sociopaths in our history. The FACT is that Morrison and the LNP have not achieved a SINGLE THING that provides any type of benefit to ordinary working- or middle-class Australians – NEVER have and NEVER will!

    5) consistent contemptuous, offhand misogynistic statements used to put women “in their place” which – according to the ex-LNP MP, Julie Bishop – is used by the majority of appalling, alpha-male “swinging d*cks” in the male-dominated LNP who believe that most women should be kept barefoot and pregnant in front of the kitchen sink!

    6) a thoroughly offensive racist remark (or a surreptitious utterance IMPLYING a racist attack) against ANYONE who is not a white, anglo-saxon male with a conservative, right-wing Presbyterianism-type of “christian” background!

    7) an offensive sanctimonious “lecture” that has its foundation deeply embedded in judgemental religious hypocrisy!

    There is absolutely NOTHING GOOD one can find to say about the LNP. This diabolical, self-serving regime is made up of the worst type of political sociopaths ever seen in this nation! The LNP has degenerated into an internationally condemned pack of smug, totally ruthless, unconscionably cruel gang of lying, conniving, misogynistic bible-thumping hypocrites who don’t give a rat’s behind about ANYONE but themselves and their multi-millionaire, non-taxpaying donors in the Top 1%.

    WAKE UP, AUSTRALIA and kick these smug, corrupt and self-serving parasites to the gutter at the next federal election – they do NOT care about YOU and never did!

  5. Mr Shevill Mathers

    Kathryn, I could not have put it any better. I do hope the entire LNP (Lying Nasty People) go the same way little Johnny Howard went, lost his seat and government.

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