Qld’s surging public service – clarification of Australian article comments

I’m quoted in today’s Australian article Polls back Labor’s jobs push, and I need to clarify this reported comment:

Economist Gene Tunny said that Queensland’s public sector had been stable through the pandemic and that had steadied the state’s job market, but he expected future employment growth to come from tourism as travel restrictions were lifted.

It’s not a direct quote and I can’t remember exactly what I told the Australian journalist when we spoke last Thursday – possibly I said the public sector has been a stabilising influence on the economy – but I doubt I would have said the public sector itself has been stable, when it’s actually been surging. The Public administration and safety industry division, which includes many state public servants, is one of the few industries to have grown since March (see chart below based on the ABS estimates of payroll jobs from Single Touch Payroll data from the ATO, and note these data aren’t seasonally adjusted).

According to the state government’s COVID-19 Fiscal and Economic Review, Queensland general government employee expenses grew 6.8% in 2019-20 compared with population growth of 1.5%. There was obviously a big surge in public sector employment in the June quarter (April to June), but we don’t know the number of extra public servants yet as the Government’s latest public service snapshot was taken in March. We don’t have the June quarter estimates yet. Again, the lack of transparency from the state government going into this election campaign is very concerning and disappointing.

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