St George Matters with Chris Minns: The grim reality behind unemployment numbers

Chris Minns
Chris Minns

Walk down the main street of Kogarah or any other town centre in Sydney and you will notice the growing number of 'For Lease' signs in windows of once thriving small businesses.

This is the heartbreaking result of Australia's first recession in three decades.

Despite what we can see with our own eyes, the official unemployment rate in NSW fell last week from 7.2 per cent to 6.7 per cent.

The Treasurer Dom Perrottet crowed the result was "better than expected". Was there really an improvement in the jobs situation in NSW or is there a different truth in the numbers?

If there is an increase in the number of jobs you would expect there to be an increase in the number of hours worked. However, monthly hours worked in NSW increased by just 0.7 per cent - the lowest of any state except Victoria which is in lockdown. So the statistics say there are more jobs, but there is hardly any more work being done.

Economists suggest this is because the Federal Government changed JobSeeker to require people to show they have been looking for work, resulting in people recording as little as an hour of employment in order to access government support. And many of the 'new' jobs are in the 'gig economy' with its unreliable hours and unpredictable earnings.

Then there is the NSW underemployment rate which has doubled from 3.2 per cent to 6.6 per cent. Combine this with the unemployment rate and we have 13.3 per cent of people in New South Wales who are not getting the work they want or need.

So our eyes are not deceiving us. When we see vacant shop windows it means the recession is biting in our area. And as we move through summer the difficulties faced by small business - many of which are run by local mum and dad teams - are going to get worse before they get better.

This is clearly the worst economic hole the country has been in since 1991. We will need a

comprehensive plan that must involve tax cuts, stimulus measures and honesty from the Government. Business as usual will see our area fall further behind.

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