Whatever the specific cause for this year’s drought – climate change, el nino or the natural cycle of the climate – its impacts are certainly being felt. The latest Roy Morgan Unemployment Estimate, released today, shows that unemployment in rural and regional areas has shot up in the third quarter.

During the September quarter, the Roy Morgan Unemployment Estimate increased 0.7% from 6.6% to 7.3%. However, most of the increase in unemployment occurred in regional and rural areas (up 1.5% to 9%), while unemployment in capital cities increased only slightly (up 0.2% to 6.4%).

The AWB revealed today that it has cut its production forecast yet again, and predicts the national grain harvest is likely to produce about half the average levels. A recent tour through the Wimmera-Mallee area confirms that the industry is in trouble yet again, with crops barely reaching ankle level.

As if the drought wasn’t enough, several ill-timed frosts have wiped out more than half of the fruit crop in the Goulburn Valley, forcing the Victorian Government to provide the region with a $5 million assistance package. Henry expects that much of the seasonal fruit-picking employment will be down substantially as a result.

However, the ABS revealed yesterday that total job vacancies remain high, rising 13.6% in trend terms for the year to August – 14% in the private sector and 10.4% in the public sector. The rise in vacancies was 3.8% during the three months to August, comprising 4.1% private sector, 2% public sector.

If you are inclined to believe in “seasonally adjusting” these figures, job vacancies actually slipped 0.8 per cent in the August quarter, falling to 154,100 in the August quarter from 155,300 in the May quarter, which suggests a slight decrease in demand for labour. However, 154,100 job vacancies in the quarter is still very high, and is indeed the second highest quarterly job vacancies data released by the ABS since they began the measure in 1979.

The Roy Morgan Federal Vote figures, also released today, show that the ALP still dominate on a two-party preferred basis, despite the Coalition Government’s primary support jumping 3.5%. Currently, the ALP lead the Coalition 53% to 47%, suggesting that the ALP is still a chance to win next year’s Federal election.

Read more at Henry Thornton.

Peter Fray

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