Page 159 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 13 February 2008

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Employment—labour market

MR GENTLEMAN: My question is to the Chief Minister in his capacity as Treasurer. Can the Chief Minister advise the Assembly of the current situation of the ACT labour market?

MR STANHOPE: I thank Mr Gentleman for the question. Mr Speaker, the ACT labour market has exhibited remarkable strength in recent years. The territory’s unemployment rate is currently just 2.4 per cent—the lowest since records began in 1978. There are also fewer unemployed people in the ACT than ever before—now just 4,500. In fact, year-on-year unemployment has been falling since May 2002.

Mr Speaker, the strength of the labour market is due to the high demand for labour in the territory. High levels of demand continue to be reflected in the large number of job advertisements we see regularly in the local press. The average year-on-year growth rate of the ANZ job advertisement series in 2007 was 9.4 per cent. In fact, the demand for labour in the ACT is so high that it is likely the labour market would be even stronger were there more people to fill all the vacant positions.

A further trend in ACT employment has been the movement from part-time towards full-time work. The proportion of employed people working full time has increased from 73.8 per cent to 76.4 per cent over the last two years. Over the same period, the Australian share of full time to total employment has increased by only 0.4 per cent.

The remarkable performance of the ACT labour market contrasts strongly with the performance of other jurisdictions. The ACT’s low unemployment rate of 2.4 per cent is well below the national rate of 4.4 per cent. The next lowest jurisdiction is Western Australia, with an unemployment rate of 3.3 per cent. It is also well below the New South Wales rate of 4.7 per cent and the Victorian rate of 4.6 per cent.

Another feature of the ACT labour market is its high participation rate. The ACT labour market participation rate is consistently above the Australian rate. Currently, the ACT participation rate is 71.8 per cent, compared to the national rate of 65.2 per cent. The high level of participation reflects the good job prospects in the ACT and the high level of demand for labour. This, of course, also reflects a highly skilled workforce suited to the needs of the local economy.

The benefits of a well-educated and highly skilled workforce are also reflected in higher wages. The average weekly earnings in the ACT are $1,287, well above the Australian average of $1,103. ACT earnings have been growing as well. These are excellent results for the ACT and our labour market. The government, of course, has recognised that there is a continuing unmet demand for labour and has taken steps to address this.

The government has already taken a number of steps, and the ACT Skills Commission, which I established, has recently released its interim report for public and industry consultation. I met with the chairman of the commission just last week to discuss the response to the consultation and the commission’s proposals for a final report, which it is anticipated will be delivered by the commission within the next six months. Once

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