Release type: Media Release


Australia’s unemployment rate remains steady and one of the lowest in the industrialised world


The Hon Bill Shorten MP
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Financial Services and Superannuation

Despite the significant turbulence from Europe, the ABS labour force figures released today show that Australia’s unemployment rate remained steady in December 2011, at 5.2 per cent, one of the lowest rates of unemployment in the industrialised world and around half that of the Euro area.

Overall, seasonally adjusted employment fell by 29,300 in December 2011. While full-time employment increased strongly, by 24,500, this was offset by a decline in part-time unemployment.

As the Government said in the mid-year update, global headwinds are adding to pressures in some parts of our patchwork economy, like the high dollar and cautious consumer, and this is reflected in the figures today.

Average hours worked rose by 5.6 million to 1.622 billion hours.  Against this background, the labour force participation rate declined in December, to 65.2 per cent.

The number of people looking for work also decreased, by 3,800 in December to stand at 629,900.

The Acting Treasurer, Bill Shorten, while noting the softer results in recent months, stated that Australia’s low unemployment rate was testament to the success of Labor’s economic management in the face of a significant downturn in Europe.

“Despite the major headwinds in the global economy, Australia walks tall because of the strength of our economy and the quality of the decisions the Government has taken to secure our living standards,” he said.

“Australians can be confident about our long-term strength, but we must be realistic about the impact on our economy of a deteriorating Europe and continued global volatility.”

Despite some easing in labour market conditions, since the Labor Government came to office in November 2007, 718,300 jobs have been created, an outstanding result given the rest of the world has seen the disappearance of around 25 million jobs over the same period.

Minister Shorten also noted that while some industries, like retail and manufacturing, were clearly doing it tough in a difficult global economic climate, other industries were recording particularly strong jobs growth, thereby providing many opportunities for Australian job seekers.

Clearly, Australia is not immune from developments in Europe and, if conditions were to deteriorate further, this would inevitably put pressure on the Australian labour market.

“But we can’t lose sight of Australia’s strong fundamentals that set us apart from the rest of the developed world. We have solid growth, low unemployment, contained inflation and very low debt, and a proven track record of dealing with global instability.

“This Government will continue with the critical reforms and hard policy choices that have made our labour market the envy of the industrialised world, and will continue to get on with the job of building a stronger, sustainable and more secure domestic economy,” Minister Shorten said.

International Comparison of Unemployment Rates

Unemployment Rate1
(%labour force)

Latest Date Source
Australia 5.2 Dec-11 ABS
US 8.5 Dec-11 US Bureau of Labor Statistics
Euro area 2 10.3 Nov-11 Eurostat
UK 8.3 Sep-11 Eurostat
Germany 5.5 Nov-11 Eurostat
France 9.8 Nov-11 Eurostat
Italy 8.6 Nov-11 Eurostat
Ireland 14.6 Nov-11 OECD
Iceland 7.2 Oct-Dec-11 OECD
Canada 7.5 Dec-11 Statistics Canada
OECD 3 8.2 Nov-11 OECD