PM plagued by underemployment concerns

Concerns many Australians are not getting as much work as they would like have taken the shine off figures showing a drop in the jobless rate.


Australia’s unemployment rate fell to 5.7 per cent in April, official figures show, beating expectations of a flat rate of 5.9 per cent.

But while part-time jobs rose by 49,000, full-time employment fell by 11,600, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Thursday.

Labor claims the figures are evidence of a growing underemployment problem, insisting many Australians are struggling to find sufficient work.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says jobs growth is going strong, with growth in full-time and part-time employment during the past 12 months.

“The employment figures do move around a lot and we had strong growth in full-time employment last month,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Rockhampton.

It is a view backed by several economists, who insist the April dip in full-time jobs should be viewed against the surge seen in March, when the economy added almost 75,000 full-time jobs.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says Australians are not getting enough work.

“1.1 million of our fellow Australians are complaining of being under-employed. They want more work,” he told reporters in Geelong.

Opposition employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor slammed the government for supporting cuts to penalty rates and increasing taxes at a time of record low wages growth.

“It is good for people to be employed but to have a job that might be two hours a week is not necessarily sufficient,” he told reporters in Brisbane.

“There’s no point in saying that people are in the labour market if you have in excess of one million people saying we can’t find enough work.”

Commonwealth Bank economist Gareth Aird said full-time jobs and part-time jobs were equally good as long as the part-time workers did not want to work full time.

But it was no coincidence that growth in underemployment had coincided with the trend towards part-time employment, he said.

“Growth in part-time employment, rather than full-time work, becomes a problem – and indeed undesirable – when there is growth in the number of workers who are not working as much as they would like.

“This is captured in the underemployment rate which is at its highest level on record.”

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief James Pearson told AAP the figures showed employers wanted to hire.

“Rising part-time employment is a natural feature of an economy undergoing structural change and as the Reserve Bank noted this month, part-time work is chosen by many people juggling responsibilities,” he said.