Home » Australian Politics » The more things change the more they stay the same

The more things change the more they stay the same

In the old days of the seventies our national unemployment statistics used to be based upon the number or people claiming an unemployment benefit from the then DSS and at some point a bright spark in government decided that instead of using that empirical measurement of those who are self-identifying as “unemployed” they would use  a supposedly better system of statistical sampling. Frankly I was unconvinced when this change was made and I recall discussing the change with my late father who was equally scathing and of the opinion that it was just a blatant attempt to manipulate the public perceptions of the level of unemployment.  Over the subsequent years since the change I have  shared my cynicism about the statistics many times but this little snippet from the Age shows just how right I am  to distrust such things

Each month the bureau surveys about 29,000 homes. One-eighth of the group, about 3600 homes, leave the survey each month and a new 3600 are ”rotated” in.

Rarely, usually only once every one or two years, employment conditions in the new homes are quite different to those in the old. When that happens, the official employment numbers jump (or fall) even if employment itself hasn’t changed.

The houses rotated in in February were extremely different to the houses rotated out. So different that the bureau believes the rotation itself was responsible for half of the reported 71,500 surge in employment, the ”best monthly job creation result in 13 years”.

Bureau staff briefed government officials Thursday morning

Another unusual occurrence ”amplified” the error.

To convert its survey into answers for the entire population, the bureau multiplies the result by a number based on its guess of the population. Its best guess is that Australia’s working age population rose by more than usual at the start of this year as a greater than usual number of foreign students arrived.

It reckons this further exaggerated the already-exaggerated employment growth, perhaps by another 13 per cent.

It would prefer people to look at its estimate of what it calls the trend. This shows employment climbed at a sedate pace of 11,600 in February, much less than 71,500, and just enough to keep pace with population. The unemployment rate remained steady at 5.4 per cent.

As someone once said ” there are lies, damned lies and statistics “   and when it comes to this or any other government talking about how well they are doing in creating or maintaining our employment levels when they bandy around figures as if they are holy writ it is probably wise to think on the way such figures are magicked into existence by the ABS especially if they are trumpeted by any political player as being indicative of a government’s performance in “creating jobs”
Cheers Comrades
a gratuitous image of a woman exercising to distract attention from the post, rather like the way that employment ststitics distract attention form the actual level of employment

A gratuitous image of a woman exercising to distract attention from the post, rather like the way that employment statistics distract attention form the actual level of unemployment.

Cue the usual suspects :roll:

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8 Comments

  1. Peter Dippl says:

    Damn Iain I was almost too distracted to post the following. No comments just the facts and as you say “cue the usual suspects”

    http://www.roymorgan.com/news/polls/2012/4742/

    Cheers comrade mate !

  2. Iain Hall says:

    See how well such distractions work Peter?

  3. Peter Dippl says:

    Yes mate and dammit I was bloody distracted twice more since my post 3:)

  4. GD says:

    I’m glad you spotted this, Iain. Cornlegend’s bald claim was obviously false.

    For those too lazy or brainwashed to follow Peter’s link:

    In January 2012 according to Roy Morgan:

    Unemployment was 10.3% (up 1.7% since December 2011) — an estimated 1,278,000 Australians were unemployed and looking for work. This is Australia’s highest ever number of unemployed as reported by Roy Morgan and is also Australia’s highest unemployment rate for a decade — since January 2002 (10.9% — 1,075,000).

    A further 7.5% of the workforce* were working part-time looking for more work (underemployed) — 934,000 Australians.

    In total a record 17.8% of the workforce, or 2.21 million Australians, were unemployed or underemployed.

    The Australian workforce* in January was at a record high 12,429,000, up 383,000 since January 2011 — comprising 7,681,000 full-time workers (up 106,000); 3,470,000 part-time workers (down 53,000) and 1,278,000 looking for work (up 330,000).

    The latest Roy Morgan unemployment estimate of 10.3% is now almost double the 5.2% currently quoted by the ABS for December 2011.

    And well done to the Age for publishing the article pointing to this.

    Also Iain, well done for yet another stupendous gif at the end of your post.

  5. Brian says:

    I agree Iain. It should be easy enough for someone down at Centrelink to push a button and find out how many people are in receipt of Jobseeker allowance. That would be the true number of unemployed and underemployed people.

    Mind you, I don’t find the Morgan method of calculating unemployment to be much more reliable than the ABS’s. Polling 5,000 people a month in an undefined area is not going to give you a reliable picture of nationwide unemployment. For example:

    Unemployment was 10.3% (up 1.7% since December 2011) — an estimated 1,278,000 Australians were unemployed and looking for work. This is Australia’s highest ever number of unemployed as reported by Roy Morgan and is also Australia’s highest unemployment rate for a decade — since January 2002 (10.9% — 1,075,000).

    If you claim those figures to be reliable, it means that there were 0.6% more unemployed after six years of Howard than there are after three years of Gillard.

  6. Iain Hall says:

    Brian
    The other artifact of the ABS method is that anyone who does just one hour of paid work a week is classified as “employed” and that preconception is feed into all of the figures.

    Even allowing for the fact that many on the Newstart allowance may be under reporting some work as there is a centralized agency dealing with the whole nation it beggars belief that that agency is not used as a source for accurate data.

  7. GD says:

    Brian, I agree. Centrelink has all the numbers for all types of welfare.

    The only bit they miss is where some unemployed people, ie those living with a spouse who earns too much, or a young person living at home who doesn’t register for payments aren’t counted. It doesn’t change the equation. Centrelink has the information and subsequently any other statistics are worthless.

  8. […] The more things change the more they stay the same (iainhall.wordpress.com) […]

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