Lacklustre labour market gives added urgency to regulatory reforms

vacancies

Job vacancies data released by the ABS yesterday suggest the Queensland labour market will remain relatively weak over the next few months at least (see chart above). The data are also consistent with Queensland Treasury’s forecast in the Budget that unemployment will remain at around 6% in 2014-15. Given the lacklustre labour market, it is even more important to reform regulations that are restraining opportunities for trade, one egregious example being restrictions on retail trading hours.

Hence I’m pleased to see Woolworths is continuing to push for longer trading hours in regional Queensland, as reported by the Toowoomba Chronicle yesterday:

The grocery giant has told a Productivity Commission inquiry that Queensland’s trading hours are too restrictive and complicated and costing the state’s economy tens of millions of dollars a year as well as local jobs.

Woolworths wants to stay open longer on some weekends and trade on Boxing Day, Easter Sunday and Labour Day…

“Trading hours in Queensland are regulated by (an Act that) runs over 57 pages plus eight pages of regulations,” Woolworths said in its submission.

“On Saturdays, shops in southeast Queensland must close by 5pm but in inner-city Brisbane by 5.30pm, in the city heart of inner-city Brisbane by 7pm, in New Farm by 9pm and in the Gold Coast tourist area by 10pm.

“Stores are not able to vary trading hours in response to customer demand arising from local conditions such as seasonal variations, weather events and community festivals.”

Woolworths highlighted 20 regional towns across the state where it was prevented from opening on Sunday.

Retail trade is a big employer of young people, who tend to suffer the most in periods of labour market weakness, and hence they would be major beneficiaries of trading hours reform. My previous comments on trading hours are contained in several posts, including:

Reduce youth unemployment through improved regulation – e.g. of penalty rates, taxis

OBPR recommends fast-tracked review of trading hours restrictions

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