*Pic: The buck stops here … ? Premier Hodgman (left) and Treasurer Gutwein in Parliament …

… Another dismal employment scorecard

Tasmania’s unemployment figures took a turn for the worse last month, with the state beaten to the bottom position only by South Australia, the nation’s basket-case economy.

The seasonally-adjusted unemployment figure rose from 6.0% in September to 6.5% in October. The national rate went down, from 6.2% to 5.9%.

Once again, New South Wales and Victoria are driving the national economy in employment as well as much else. But even Western Australia, hit by the mining downturn, is better than us ‒ though not by much.

The seasonally-adjusted data must be regarded with caution. These figures can be buffeted by survey variations and one-off factors. But the latest figures are not incorporated into Bureau of Statistics’ complex calculation of trend data and won’t be fully counted for six months.

The trend statistics are good at telling us what was happening six months ago but they ignore anything happening over the most recent couple of months.

The Treasurer, Peter Gutwein, would have known this when he issued a press release saying: ‘At 6.2% Tasmania now has the third lowest unemployment rate of all the states’ ( TT Media HERE ).

He quoted trend figures without saying so. This gives a highly selective and misleading view of the current situation.

But the real employment problems facing Tasmanians are both more complicated and more serious than the headline figures ‒ or Mr Gutwein ‒ reveal.

Only 600 extra jobs have been created in the past twelve months, in seasonally-adjusted terms, falling behind even Tasmania’s anaemic rate of population growth.

All the jobs growth has been for men. The number of jobs occupied by women over the past year has fallen both in trend and in seasonally-adjusted terms. There are now 1700 fewer women in work now than in October last year.

One bright spot has been that most of the job creation has been in full-time, rather than part-time, employment.

A more depressing picture emerges of the situation facing Tasmania’s young people …

A more depressing picture emerges of the situation facing Tasmania’s young people. Our 18 to 24 year olds are far more likely to be out of work than their peers anywhere else in the country except, again, South Australia. But this figure is skewed by those in full-time education who seek work to help them through their studies.

When those are discounted, the picture becomes much worse. The unemployment rate for young people not in full-time education is 16.0% ‒ four full points worse even than South Australia. The national average is 10.3%.

Because the Bureau of Statistics regards as employed anyone with one hour’s paid work in a week, the headline figures present an unduly optimistic view of the real unemployment position.

The Bureau uses two measures to show the underlying picture, though these are usually ignored by journalists and politicians.

First, it looks at the underemployment rate ‒ people who have some work but need more. Our rate of underemployment is far worse than anywhere else in the country, including South Australia.

Second, the ABS adds this figure to the overall unemployment rate to produce the underemployment figure ‒ people who are out of work or who need more work to make ends meet.

This is perhaps the most revealing of all labour force statistics and shows the broader impact both on the economy and on the society. In both seasonally-adjusted and trend terms, the Tasmanian figure remains by far the worst in Australia ‒ a position the state has consistently held for a very long time.

Socially, the impact on individuals, households and communities can be devastating and no amount of sunny press releases from the Treasurer can change that reality.

These data reveal a major drag on the state’s economy. More than any other state or territory, Tasmania is failing to use its most significant resource ‒ its people ‒ to create the common wealth.

Former ABC journalist *Martyn Goddard is a commentator/analyst, specialising in health analysis. He was also a frequent feature writer for the SMH.

• Pete Godfrey in Comments: Lying to the public should be treated the same as lying to parliament. Politicians who deliberately lie to the public should be dismissed immediately. Like the old saying goes there are Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics.


Examiner: Gutwein drives development PLANNING Minister Peter Gutwein has urged the West Tamar Council to scrap outlines for reticulated water at Greens Beach in favour of a golf course development worth up to $200 million. … The stipulation would have secured running tap water for Greens Beach as well as properties passed at nearby Kelso and Clarence Point. However, the proponent in June argued that supplying water and sewerage to the lots would make the development – valued between $175 million and $200 million – unviable. Mr Gutwein wrote to West Tamar mayor Christina Holmdahl in October, advising the council to delete its requirement to allow for the development …

SkyNews: Gunns fails in civil case against Tasmania

• Leonard Colquhoun in Comments: Two observations about how politicians usually announce new developments: ~ they usually give importance to claims like “[whatever] is a 123 million dollar project”, seemingly as if highlighting the mega-dollar size of the cost is more important than telling us WTF it is, or explaining why it is needed (and our media is complicit in this); ~ they also make assertions like “it will create n-hundred or x-thousand jobs during construction”, as if the temporary work in that phase is the most significant effect. (If that’s so, might as well pull it down and re-build it several times over!) … • You’d reckon, wouldn’t you, that the sort of detailed statistical / mathematical breakdown and analysis presented in Comment 5 would be taught to undergrads in university J-Schools. Well, you would, wouldn’t you?

• Martyn Goddard in Comments: I accept Graeme’s point, but for a Treasurer to quote an unemployment figure without saying whether it was trend or seasonally adjusted — which just happened to be the figure that served his political purpose — is misleading and I suspect deliberately so. Both series have problems. As I said in my piece, ‘seasonally-adjusted data must be regarded with caution. These figures can be buffeted by survey variations and one-off factors’. Ideally, we would quote both the seasonal and explain to our audience the advantages and limitations of each. Unfortunately, neither journalists nor most politicians know the difference: they assume, I think, that both series refer to the current situation. But they don’t. Only the seasonal data do. Here we have the problem of two professions looking at the same figures. Economists, like Graeme, can (and should) wait for the more reliable data, even if that takes six months. Journalists (like me) don’t have that luxury. Our job is principally to report on what’s happening right now. Anyway, I’ve always been bemused at the desire of state politicians to pretend they have their hands on the levers of their local economies. They like to take the credit but this means they’re also putting their hands up for the blame. Most of the forces affecting state economies are from outside. Colin Barnett did not create the mining boom but took credit for it, and is on the nose now that it’s ended. Suddenly improved economic times in NSW and Victoria have far more to do with the exchange rate and the price of oil than anything the Baird or Andrews governments have done. And the Hodgman government did not create the uplift in tourism: that was David Walsh and the lower Australian dollar.

• Luke Martin in Comments: Public health, economics, employment, climate change, the arts, events, tourism.. Martyn Goddard is like the ‘Leonardo DaVinci’ of Tasmanian policy “analysts”! Must be an amazingly impressive and broad suite of experience and credentials Mr Goddard possess in each of these areas to be able to offer such authorative commentary wrapped up as ‘analysis’. Or is this commentary really just one person’s opinion backed up by a slanted interpretation of readily available public data?

• Simon Warriner in Comments: “Or is this commentary really just one person’s opinion backed up by a slanted interpretation of readily available public data?” You could be talking about anything our liblab politicians have said about pokies in this state for a very long time there Luke, and about tourism, although MONA seems to have spoiled that little rort. Actually it takes a relatively narrow range of talents to smell the putrified offal on offer across a range of portfolios. A functioning olfactory nerve is all anyone needs. The same tricks are recycled over and over, and were it not for the studious and strenuous efforts by all concerned to avoid an Integrity Commission worth the name, they would have been shown up for the shonks they are long ago.

• Leonard Colquhoun in Comments: A journalist’s job “is principally to report on what’s happening right now.” (Quoted within Comment 14) If only!

• John Hawkins in Comments: … The Liberals have now passed legislation to take planning powers from local councils – the right of approval rests with the Minister – the ex mayors in the Upper House fell into line with alacrity but they know about the desires and integrity of property developers. Does Gutwein agree that running water now makes Tasmanian housing so expensive it cannot be included in the spec? …

• Leo Schofield in Comments: The egregious Luke Martin seems to have taken time off from penning his papal pronunciamentos which weekly find space in the Mercury to attack Martyn Goddard, ostensibly on the grounds of his variety of interests. The Lukester of course confines his dubious expertise to tourism matters, beating up fantasy figures for visitations. Does he include in his hyper-inflated numbers, passengers from cruise ships? These ‘visitors’ breakfast on the ship, mostly wander off to buy ugg boots and a kebab before returning for dinner and a sunset sail away. Restaurants, retail businesses and hotels gain bugger-all from these cruisers. But the magic numbers Martin produces provide comfort for his political masters and, perish the thought, prime him for a tilt at parliament. God help Tasmania.