Peter Costello

Media Releases

Labour Force, August 2003

NO.080

LABOUR FORCE, AUGUST 2003

Today's labour force data recording the lowest unemployment rate in more than 13 years once again demonstrates the extraordinary resilience of the domestic economy, supported by low interest rates and strong consumer confidence.

In the face of the worst drought in a century, the onset of SARS, a weak international economy, and the ravages of war, labour force data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics this morning shows that Australia's unemployment rate fell to 5.8 per cent in August 2003. It is the lowest recorded rate of unemployment since January 1990.

Employment increased by 80,600 persons in August, with 63,500 new full-time jobs and 17,100 part-time. A total of 1.2 million new jobs have been created since the Coalition came to office in March 1996 and the unemployment rate has fallen from 8.2 per cent to August's 5.8 per cent.

Westpac and the Melbourne Institute released data yesterday showing that consumer sentiment rose by a solid 3.2 per cent in September to be around 16 per cent above its long-run average. Household consumption rose by 1.2 per cent in the June quarter, and current price retail turnover increased by 0.8 per cent in July to be 6.4 per cent higher over the past year.

In addition to employment growth, family finances are being supported by income tax cuts, which took effect on 1 July.

This optimism in the household sector is also supporting business activity, with the NAB monthly survey released earlier this week showing that business confidence remained very strong in August. The strength of activity in the business sector was also borne out in the June quarter National Accounts, which showed an 11.3 per cent increase in business investment in the year to the June quarter.

While it is pleasing to see the unemployment rate fall below 6 per cent for the first time in more than 13 years, Australia can do better.

The pace of reform must be maintained. The Labor Party and the Senate should support the Government's workplace reform agenda to finally rid Australia of the high unemployment policies of the past.

It is only through a commitment to labour and product market reform, to healthy competition, and to prudent macroeconomic policies that Government can help to reinforce Australia's economic strength.

CANBERRA

Thursday, 11 September 2003

Contact: David Alexander
(02) 6277 7340

11 Sep 2003

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