A cautionary comment about the US economy. The stockmarket seemed very happy with the United States’ gross domestic product figures out overnight but there is little joy in them for the country’s unemployed. The Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman put the 3.5% growth figure into a little perspective on his New York Times blog this morning when he pointed out that the growth rate was not remotely enough to make any real headway against the unemployment problem. He illustrated the past relationship between growth and unemployment with this little scatterplot:

Krugman commented that “basically, we’d be lucky if growth at this rate brought unemployment down by half a percentage point per year. At this rate, we wouldn’t reach anything that feels like full employment until well into the second Palin administration”.

The Barossa’s approach to a crushing problem. Some small relief announced this morning for the beleaguered Australian wine industry — the crush during this year’s vintage was 5% less than in 2008. The Australian Bureau of Statistics figures out this morning show there were 1.73 million tonnes of grapes crushed in 2008-09, a decrease of 99,000 tonnes. So much for the good news.

The bad news from the same release was that inventories of Australian wine held by winemakers (who crush more than 400 tonnes) increased this year to 1.92 billion litres at June 30, 2009. This was a 2.4% increase on last years end of financial year figure. Table wine inventories rose 2.3% to 1.7 billion litres as at 30 June 2009.

With the export collapsing because of the strengthening Australian dollar, the grim times for producers and good times for consumers are likely to continue for at least the next 12 months. Which might explain why the heartland of the Australian industry has turned in a new marketing direction, which is featuring Evony rather than Grange.

Some gains but the gaps remain. The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows there have been gains in indigenous education and employment over the six years to 2008. As there were also gains for all Australians, gaps remain between outcomes for indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

In education, young indigenous people are completing Year 12 and further studies. In 2008, over one-in-five indigenous people aged 15–64 years had completed Year 12 (up from 18% in 2002), while 40% of those aged 25–64 years held a non-school qualification (up from 32%). Despite these improvements, educational attainment rates remain at about half those for non-indigenous people. In 2008, 54% of non-indigenous people had completed Year 12 and 61% had non-school qualifications.

Other key findings from the 2008 NATSISS for indigenous people aged 15 years and over include:

  • 40% spoke or spoke some words of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language;
  • 62% identified with a clan, tribal or language group;
  • 44% rated their health as excellent or very good, and a further 34% rated their health as good;
  • those who were current smokers decreased from 51% in 2002 to 47% in 2008;
  • those with a non-school qualification increased from 26% in 2002 to 32% in 2008;
  • employment increased from 46% in 2002 to 52% in 2008;
  • the unemployment rate decreased from 22.9% in 2002 to 16.5% in 2008;
  • those who were living in dwellings with major structural problems decreased from 38% in 2002 to 28% in 2008; and
  • those who lived in households where members ran out of money for basic living expenses in the 12 months prior to interview decreased from 44% in 2002 to 28% in 2008.

Key findings for indigenous children aged 4-14 years include:

  • 31% spent at least one day a week with an indigenous leader or elder;
  • 74% were physically active for at least 60 minutes every day in the week prior to interview; and
  • 62% were taught about indigenous culture at school.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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