Roy Morgan has released its unemployment figure for the December
quarter and it paints a darker picture for the Australian economy than the most recent ABS
employment figures will admit.

According to the Morgan Poll for this year’s December quarter,
unemployment rose 0.7% to 7.8%, which is a 1.1% rise on last year’s figure.
While the ABS’s most recent figures for November, available here, place the nation’s
unemployment rate at a very healthy 5.1%, saying it actually decreased by 0.1% in November. That’s a whopping 2.7%
difference, and although the ABS figures no doubt look much healthier
to a Coalition Government that prides itself on its employment track record,
the discrepancy is tough to ignore.

Pollster Garry Morgan told Crikey that the government understates true
unemployment by playing with the definition of “employed.” According to
Morgan, those who work only one hour a week
are considered by the government and the ABS as employed, as are those
on sickness benefits, and there’s even more confusion about
consultants and contractors

“There are some [consultants and contractors] who are out of work and
haven’t admitted it yet. They haven’t worked for some time, and all
they’ve got is business cards,” Morgan said.

“We know that political parties are well aware that the figures are a
bit dodgy, but they won’t do anything about it,” Morgan told Crikey
this morning. “They’re going to need better employment stats to model
the economy.”

The Morgan Poll, available here,
reports Queensland had the lowest unemployment figure (6.8%) for the
December quarter, while South Australia had the highest, pushing