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QTPA Member Alert |Things Start to Move in Australia. (25/9/2013)

Things Start to Move in Australia.

(Australian Industry Group – Economic Review 20/9/13).


On a positive note, the RBA minutes noted that export growth remains strong and investment spending in the mining sector continues at very high levels (albeit with a slowing pipeline of future work to be done). And business and household sentiment are slowly improving from an extended period of below-average levels, which is a preliminary signal that real activity in the non-mining sectors may soon begin to pick up.


Some of the most recent growth pockets are somewhat surprising. In particular, the growth in public administration jobs of 6,200 in the three months to August and 94,500 over the past year indicates that staff cuts in some jurisdictions have been strongly outweighed by growth in other areas. This ‘industry’ includes administrative employment across all three levels of government as well as military and emergency services, so this growth in employment is plausible, even at a time of public sector job cuts. In total, public administration now employs 123,000 more people than it did five years ago (Aug 2008).


Among other growth industries, construction showed a welcome lift of 80,000 jobs in the year to August 2013, this largely represents a recovery back to job numbers in 2011, after a big dip in 2012. Construction jobs are 79,700 higher than a year ago, but just 15,600 above the level of August 2011. Similarly, the transport, post and storage industry employed 4,700 more people in the three months to August and 29,000 more people in the year to August, but this represents a recovery in employment rather than new growth. The August employment level for this industry is the same now (590,600) as it was in August 2011 (590,300) and is below the industry’s all-time peak (606,600) in February 2009. Probably the most startling numbers in these latest data are for the manufacturing industry, which employed 922,400 people in August (see chart 3). This was 16,800 fewer employees than in May and 42,000 less than a year ago. Manufacturing now employs 150,600 fewer people than at the most recent peak in manufacturing employment in Feb 2008, a loss of 14% over this period. This is a bigger relative decline in manufacturing employment than during the early 1990s recession (12%). Around a third of the job losses in manufacturing in the early 1990s were subsequently recovered as conditions improved again. It remains to be seen what sort of recovery might eventuate this time around, if pressures from the high Australian dollar and global competition ease off. Manufacturing now accounts for 7.9% of all jobs in Australia, down from 8.1% in May, which is its lowest share of employment on record. Manufacturing now employs about the same number (and share of the workforce) as the ‘professional services’ sector, which comprises legal, accounting, consulting, engineering and similar services. At the sector level within manufacturing, employment grew over the year to August 2013 in beverages


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