The truth about unemployment rates
National unemployment rate currently stands at 5.2% . Unemployment pictures at the regional level are vastly different from the national average. ACT currently grapples with an unemployment rate of 2.4%. Chances are many employers in ACT are wondering where their next staff will come from, even as the national media screams ‘recession’.
A fascinating study by the university of Newcastle add credence to the fact that recruitment is predominately a local affair, dictated by demand and supply of labour within the local economy. The Employment Vulnerability Index estimates the likelihood of someone being unemployed across 2953 metropolitan suburbs in Australia (covering 75% of the Australian population). Of course, unemployment rates varies widely. Even in the same city, some suburbs are highly vulnerable to unemployment while many remains unscathed. For instance, Cabramatta struggles with an unemployment rate of 15.6%, while Wollstonecraft is 2.9%. To residents (employers and job seekers) of both suburbs, the national unemployment average of 5.2% doesn’t mean much.
Recruitment is a direct result of the health of local economies; to plan and conduct a recruitment strategy based on a national average is unlikely to be fruitful.
Yes, the Australian Capital Territory has been remarkably resilient in the face of the global financial crisis. Canberra is generally insulated from the worst of the problems during downturns, because the government continues to spend on major policy initiatives (eg. major projects like the ATO Change Project and Department of Human Services web portal projects) even when times are tough. The fact that the Rudd Government is now starting to ramp up its policy implementation after its ‘honeymoon’ period means that there is still plenty of work available.
That said, things are starting to turn – the ACT was the first state/territory to officially go into recession and there are murmurings from several government departments and agencies (namely the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Geoscience) of employee rationalisation in the not-too-distant future. Recently the Gershon Report was handed down which recommended that departments rationalise their contractor workforce and tighten their spending on ICT projects, and these recommendations will be implemented in the latter half of this year. The Federal Budget in May is likely to be a tough one and I suspect that the second half of 2009 will be a lot harder for Canberra as the flowthrough effect of the crisis begins to be felt in the capital.