Australia Jobs Growth May Be Overstated, Treasury's Fraser Says

  • Fraser Cites `technical issues' in October and November data
  • Treasury Secretary met with chief statistician this week

Australia has had some technical issues with its labor data, which “look a little bit better” than would otherwise have been the case, the secretary to the Treasury said, commenting on record employment growth in the final quarter of 2015.

John Fraser, the nation’s top economic bureaucrat, told a parliamentary panel in Canberra Wednesday that he held discussions on the employment figures with the chief statistician this week. He didn’t elaborate on the meeting but said the recent strength in the jobs market is encouraging.

There were some “technical issues” in October and November that may have made the employment figures “look a little bit better than otherwise would be the case,” he said. The technical issues relate to “rolling off” of participants in the labor survey.

Australia’s economy added 55,000 jobs in October and a further 74,900 in November, before shedding 1,000 in December to produce the record quarterly gain. Questions regarding the accuracy of the data have been raised following acknowledgment by the statistics agency in 2014 of measurement challenges.

Australia added 301,300 jobs in 2015, the best annual result since 2006, and 128,900 in the three months through December, the largest quarterly increase since records began in 1978. The economy has grown at less than its long-term average for six of the past seven years and is grappling with plunging commodity prices as demand from key trading partner China eases.

Weakness in commodity prices “is far greater than people had been expecting,” Fraser said in earlier remarks to the panel. Australia is now “swimming against the tide” because of uncertainties in the global economy, he added.

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