The July labour force data released by the ABS yesterday were good news for Australia and Queensland, with the unemployment rate falling in seasonally adjusted terms for both Australia, from 5.8% to 5.7%, and for Queensland, from 6.4% to 6.1%. But many commentators have noted that much of the apparent jobs growth was part-time. For example, through-the-year to July, employment in Queensland increased by nearly 26,000 people, but the increase in full-time employed was only around 6,000 people, while the increase in part-time employed was around 20,000 people (see the chart above and Queensland Treasury’s labour force brief). We need to be careful in interpreting these data as meaning that much of recent jobs growth has been inferior, however, as there is likely an underlying structural shift towards part-time employment, reflecting an increased desire among many Australians to be part-time employed, that is being reflected in the data.
I suspect a large proportion of the part-time jobs growth is due to baby boomers easing into retirement by moving from full-time work (35 hours per week or more) into part-time work. Also, the rise of the so-called gig economy, with the growth of freelancers and self-employed people, including Uber drivers, will be showing up in the data. The gig economy is allowing many people to work the hours they choose and to combine part-time employment with raising children, or another business or hobby, for example. We need to know more about the extent to which these trends are influencing the composition of employment growth before we can draw firm conclusions about the quality of new jobs.
On yesterday’s labour force data, see the latest post from Pete Faulkner: