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Unemployment in Australia – is it up or down?

Authorities disagree on the latest state of unemployment in Australia, with contrasting views on whether the national rate is falling – or on the rise.

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People are at the heart of any economy, with a strong pipeline of talent essential to driving a country’s growth. This makes the national unemployment rate such an important metric to monitor, and updates on the measure are provided on a regular basis.

However, with numerous different authorities keeping their own track of the unemployment rate, discrepancies are inevitable. This was certainly seen at the start of the year, when vastly contrasting unemployment figures were posted for January 2015.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and Roy Morgan Research are two of the organisations providing the updates on Australia, and their findings could not be more polarised. The ABS revealed that the unemployment rate went up in the first month of the year to reach 6.4 per cent. The rate in December 2014 was 6.1 per cent.

According to the ABS, the number of people employed in the country dropped by 12,200 to 11,668,700 last month.

Meanwhile, Roy Morgan Research has posted the latest unemployment rate at a significantly higher 9.8 per cent. However, it also notes that this is actually a decrease from recent results – such as the 10.9 per cent recorded in December 2014.

In fact, Roy Morgan Research claims that 7,720,000 Australians are currently employed full-time – a new record high. The total number of Australians employed (including part-time workers) is 11,394,000, according to the research group.

Whoever you decide to believe, and whether unemployment in Australia is on the increase or decline, the reality is that far too many people are still out of work.

Calls for workplace reform

There’s no doubt that businesses are constantly on the hunt for fresh talent – so what steps can the country take to improve prospects for both employers and employees?

One route could be for the government to make hiring a lot easier than it is now. This was an idea that Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Kate Carnell certainly espoused.

“These latest figures [from the ABS] should act as a wake-up call to all sides of politics that we must engage in serious discussion on how to make it easier for businesses to employ. There are rigidities in the system that are leaving businesses, particularly small and medium enterprises, reluctant to hire new staff,” she explained.

“Excessive penalty rates and onerous unfair dismissal rules mean businesses are less likely to take on new employees and open longer hours.”

She also pointed to the problem of youth unemployment, which currently stands at 14.2 per cent in Australia. By making unified efforts, the private and public sectors have a lot of potential to cut unemployment rates in Australia across the board.