The unemployment numbers yet again seem to fit perfectly with the Government’s political narrative.

The unemployment rate may not have risen, confirming Australia’s miracle economy status, but it’s not too hard to see the bad news: full-time employment down by more than 30,000, part-time up by only just over 3000.

Only a 0.3% fall in the participation saved us from higher unemployment as measured by the ABS. That’s a serious fall in participation and the worst we’ve seen for a while. Labour underutilisation was also up again.

So the economic story continues to be: good news, but things are still fragile. Too fragile, the Government will say, to risk any cut back in the stimulus currently rolling out. And they’d be right.

In the first good news for a while in NSW, unemployment remained steady there at 6.1%, although there was a fall in the participation rate; Victoria suffered a sizeable increase from 5.9% to 6.3%, overtaking NSW for the first time, although there was a big jump in participation there; Queensland fell slightly to 5.5% and SA edged up to 5.8% but saw a big fall in participation. The Tasmanians had a full 1% rise to 5.1%.

WA, however, seems to be drifting back to boom economy status with both a rise in participation and a 0.3% fall in unemployment to 5.4%.

Still, even on their worst readings, the data shows Australia is still way, way ahead of the rest of the world. Unemployment is a pretty useful indicator of human misery, and we’re keeping it under control. That is unambiguously a good thing.

Meanwhile, Gary Morgan and Michele Levine write: The August ABS unemployment estimate of 5.8%, released today, is unchanged from last month — a similar result as announced by Roy Morgan last week (7.4%, down 0.2%).

However, for the first time the ABS has released a monthly underemployment estimate. Roy Morgan Research has been calling for the release of these figures for years – and releasing our own monthly underemployment estimate for almost a year as the economic slowdown demanded closer attention be paid to the state of the Australia labour force.

The Roy Morgan unemployment and underemployment estimate for August of 14.4% (1.66 million) shows too many Australians are looking for more work – many more than has been understood by the public, politicians and the media in the past.

Today’s release by the ABS of the August “underutilisation rate” of 13.9% shows for the first time that the ABS has started to accurately report Australia’s true unemployment and underemployment situation. Australia cannot get out of the recession without this figure dropping dramatically. For the RBA to put up interest rates at this time would be “economic suicide”.

Today’s ABS figures are a “giant leap” forward for understanding the Australian labour market — it is time that Australia’s politicians started a real debate on how to find jobs for more than 1.6 million Australians looking for work or more work!

What is the major concern for Australia is for the 13th month in a row the ‘hours worked’ has dropped — in August down by another 5.8 million hours a month!