Job statistics confuse

A news story claiming Gippsland boasts a three per cent unemployment rate, in the metropolitan media last week, has been debunked by the Federal Government’s most recent quarterly data.

The Labour Force Status March Quarter report, released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics earlier this month, has put the region’s unemployment rate at 5.5 per cent – a decrease of 0.4 per cent on the same time last year. While the 5.5 figure puts Gippsland’s employment levels higher than the state average, which rose 0.2 per cent over the last quarter to 6.2, it clashes with the three per cent figure published in the Herald Sun on Friday, in the article ‘Gippsland leads the way on employment’.

Working from an employment data breakdown by Commsec, which drew its figures from ABS April data, the article used information from Hays Recruitment director Austin Blackburn, who attributed the Wonthaggi desalination plant and Longford gas plant as workplaces contributing to the apparently low figure.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations said monthly regional unemployment statistics did not take account of seasonal or other variations, and could exhibit “irregular movements and significant variability from month to month”.

“A three-month average of the original data is recommended to ‘smooth out’ the irregular volatility and provide a more accurate representation of underlying labour market conditions at the regional level,” the spokesperson said.

While the Gippsland figure saw a 0.4 drop in unemployment rates on December 2012 quarter data, the statistic masks Latrobe Valley’s relatively higher unemployment levels.

Sitting at 6.1 at the end of the December 2012 quarter, the Valley’s high unemployment rate – led by Morwell (8.4 per cent) and Moe (8.0 per cent) – was largely offset by Traralgon’s 4.4 per cent.