The South Burnett’s unemployment rate has fallen to a six-year low of 7.8 per cent, according to the latest Small Area Labour Markets (SALM) data released on Monday.
The SALM data has shown a steady decrease in unemployment over the past four quarters from 9.3 per cent (June 2018) to 8.7 per cent (September 2018) and 8.2 per cent (December 2018).
South Burnett Mayor Keith Campbell said he was “thrilled” by the latest SALM figure.
“Last month, data revealed that our building approvals increased significantly,” he said.
“Now, following the release of our current unemployment rate, I am confident to say that our region is on a positive growth trajectory.
“This is an encouraging outcome, demonstrating the strengthening of our regional economy.”
However the Department of Employment – which compiles SALM statistics – warns data at a local government level can display significant variability and should be viewed with caution.
“Indeed, quarter-to-quarter comparisons may not be indicative of actual movements in the labour market,” the Department says.
Instead, it recommends year-on-year comparisons be used instead.
The Department reported that nationally, more than half of Australia (56.1 per cent) had a fall in the unemployment rate over the year to March 2019, an improvement over the previous period.
It also reported that in the same period, 57.3 per cent of Australia had an unemployment rate of less than 5 per cent, up from 53.6 per cent the year previously.
At the other end of the spectrum, 9.5 per cent of Australia had an unemployment rate of 10 per cent or higher, down from 11.2 per cent a year earlier.
On Tuesday, the ACTU said falls in unemployment may be being offset by increasing levels of underemployment.
“Notes from the Reserve Bank’s June meeting, at which it lowered Australia’s interest rate below GFC levels, reveals the bank is concerned about the rates of unemployment and underemployment in the Australian economy,” the ACTU said.
“The Reserve Bank noted that on a number of measures, it was apparent that the labour market still had significant spare capacity.”
The ACTU noted that last week’s monthly seasonally adjusted underemployment rate increased by 0.1 to 8.6 per cent.
“Around 1.8 million Australian workers are either unemployed or underemployed,” the ACTU said.
It also pointed out that wages growth was the slowest of any sustained period since World War II.
Market research company Roy Morgan – which has also been tracking Australian unemployment and underemployment levels since October 2005 – believes real unemployment levels are significantly higher than Federal Government data suggests.
It estimates the true level of unemployment in Australia was 10.9 per cent in March 2019, while the level of underemployment was 9.7 per cent.
The company says the overall levels of unemployment and underemployment haven’t shifted in the past four years.