IF THE OFFICIAL unemployment rate was 2.35 million people seeking work, there would be social and mass media outrage in Australia. After all, that is 200,000 more people than live in Brisbane.
So, 9.6 percent of Australians seeking work in December 2012 may not be the 'official' figure, but it is the more accurate figure, according to Roy Morgan Research.
An even more frightening statistic from Roy Morgan Research is that this 'job-seeking' figure represents almost 20 percent of the Australian workforce (19.2 percent in December).
With the Federal Government happy to work with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figure hovering at about 5.5 percent, which one is right?
Well, like all things statistical, both are right.
The question is not only which one do you believe, but, more tellingly, which one is more useful to you in business decision making?
If you are a business leader trying to get a handle on the real state of the economy and you are trying to forge a pathway forward for your business, you are probably going to use the Roy Morgan numbers as they more accurately reflect what you are seeing in the marketplace — small business closures, liquidations, and an excess of commercial and industrial property for lease and sale.
If you are trying to compare this business era against other periods of global and national downturn — 1987, 1991, for example — you would also use the Roy Morgan Research numbers as they are compiled more closely to the way official figures were 'in the past'.
If you take the unemployment numbers of Roy Morgan Research as being closer to the observable truth, then it is a sobering statistic that there is a record number of Australians seeking work: 2.35 million.
Not the million-or-so that the Federal Government contends.
According to Roy Morgan Research, in December 2012 an estimated 1.176 million Australians (9.6 percent of the workforce, down 0.4 percent in a month) were unemployed, and the Australian workforce was 12,260,000, comprising 7,242,000 full-time workers (down 135,000); 3,842,000 part-time workers (up 197,000) and 1,176,000 looking for work (down 53,000).
Roy Morgan Research executive chairman Gary Morgan said, “Today’s Roy Morgan December employment estimates show Australian unemployment falling to 9.6% (1,176,000, down 53,000 in a month).
"However, the large rise in Australia’s under-employment to 1,178,000 (up 185,000) means a total of 2,354,000 (up 132,000) Australians (19.2%, up 1.1%) are either unemployed or under-employed — a new record high.
“The small increase in the workforce (up 9,000) masks an increase in part-time jobs (up 197,000) at the expense of full-time jobs (down 135,000). Similarly the decrease in unemployment (down 0.4% to 9.6%) is driven by a reduction in the number of people looking for part-time jobs, and masks the increase in people looking for full-time work.
"Analysis of the dynamics of employment in Australia suggests a substantial shift away from full-time work to part-time work with a consequent increase in people working part-time looking for full-time work or more hours (under-employed).
“This record high number of Australians either looking for work or looking for more work makes it imperative that the RBA cuts Australian interest rates (currently amongst the highest in the developed world at 3%) at the RBA’s first meeting for 2013 — scheduled for the first Tuesday of February."
The Roy Morgan survey on Australia’s unemployment and ‘under-employed’ is based on weekly interviews covering January 2007 — December 2012 and in total 311,302 Australians aged 14 and over were interviewed face-to-face including 3,751 interviews in December 2012.
Mr Morgan clarified that the ‘under-employed’ are those people who are in part-time work or consultants who are looking for more work.
"Unfortunately the ABS does not measure this figure in their monthly unemployment survey," Mr Morgan said.
He said the 2.354 million Australians unemployed or under-employed in December was 132,000 more than November and represents 19.2% (up 1.1%) of the workforce.
"This is also up a large 342,000 over the past 12 months since December 2011."
MEASURING REAL EMPLOYMENT, NOT 'PERCEPTION'
According to Roy Morgan Research, the Roy Morgan Unemployment Estimate is obtained by surveying an Australia-wide cross section by face-to-face interviews. An unemployed person is classified as part of the labour force if they are looking for work, no matter when.
The results are not seasonally adjusted and provide an accurate measure of monthly unemployment estimates in Australia.
Roy Morgan Research said the Australian Bureau of Statistics Unemployment estimates are obtained by mostly telephone interviews. Households selected for the ABS Survey are interviewed each month for eight months, with one-eighth of the sample being replaced each month.
The first interview is conducted face-to-face. Subsequent interviews are then conducted by telephone.
The ABS classifies an unemployed person as part of the labour force only if, when surveyed, they have been actively looking for work in the four weeks up to the end of the reference week and if they were available for work in the reference week.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics Unemployment estimates are also seasonally adjusted.
"For these reasons the Australian Bureau of Statistics Unemployment estimates are different from the Roy Morgan Unemployment estimate," Mr Morgan said.