But while we’re deflating the government’s triumphalism, its critics also need taking down a peg. They like to remind us that the official unemployment rate understates the true extent of worklessness. Specifically, it fails to take account of under-employment – people with part-time jobs who’d like to work more hours.
All that’s true. But when you correct the unemployment rate (for May) of 5.4 per cent by adding the underemployment rate of 8.5 per cent to give a broader measure of labour “underutilisation” of 13.9 per cent (as, admittedly, the bureau encourages you to do), you’ve gone from understating the problem to overstating it.
For all the turmoil marking the first weeks of President Trump, the big boot is yet to drop. That’s when the angry heartland realises the factory jobs aren’t coming back, whatever Trump promised.
New data points to falling consumer confidence in the Australian economy, with almost a third of Australians rating it as poor, up from 25 per cent in September.
The quarterly Choice Consumer Pulse Report comes on the back of last week’s Westpac-Melbourne Institute survey of consumer sentiment, which put consumer confidence at a three-year low, with unemployment also rising slightly.
The Government is poised to release its Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) on Monday.
The Choice survey of more than 1,000 Australians shows electricity remains the top household cost of living concern, followed by the cost of food, groceries and fuel.
“What’s concerning about these figures is they come on the back of declining business confidence and declining consumer confidence figures,” Choice chief executive Alan Kirkland told the ABC.
“We’re seeing a really consistent picture of pessimism about the state of the economy but also what people’s expenditure patterns are likely to be and that’s heading into a peak period.
“So that’s got to be of concern to the retail sector.”
The survey shows 71 per cent of Australians cut spending on entertainment in the past 12 months, while 67 per cent had cut spending on clothing.
Cuts to spending on holidays increased from 58 per cent to 66 per cent, while anxiety over university of fees was at 87 per cent.
“I think what we’re seeing is that consumer sentiment at the moment is extremely reactive to what’s happening in the broader debate,” Mr Kirkland said.
“So when we see debate in Parliament about spending cuts that raises consumer concern and when we see broader economic debate about concern about unemployment and income, that has an impact on the way people perceive the economy is likely to perform in the next little while.”
Last week, Westpac was describing a sharp deterioration in consumer confidence this month as “disturbing”.
The Westpac-Melbourne Institute Index fell 5.7 per cent in December to a level of 91.1.
Recent Australian Bureau of Statistics gross domestic product data showed the economy expanded just 0.3 per cent in the September quarter and only 2.7 per cent over the year to September 30.