The Australian economy is once again suffering from the after-effects of a surge in unemployment. The jobless rate rose to 6.4 percent, its highest point since August of 2002. According to Bureau of Statistics data, the Australian economy haemorrhaged an estimated 12,200 jobs in the month of January. According to Government, everything’s just fine. But is everything as it seems?

All in all, the economy experienced a significant drop in numbers of full time workers, with over twenty eight thousand full time jobs lost within a single month. The data also suggested minor up-swings in the participation rate and a modest increase total hour worked (0.5 percent). But all in all, the numbers do little to foster consumer sentiment and business stability.

For their part, the LNP has been quick to suggest that the rise in unemployment is nothing more than a statistical aberration. “The numbers do bounce around and so a monthly figure of itself does not necessarily indicate a trend, but we have seen a significant loss of jobs, especially in the mining sector,” Employment Minister Eric Abetz claimed.

The LNP Senator then not-so-subtly attempted to shift the blame to the Bureau. “The ABS clearly has had some difficulties in getting its numbers together, that is why they have been volatile and jumping around and that is why just one month’s figures should not be seen as indicative of a trend. But nevertheless the figures do indicate that we have to do more for the economy.”

Critics and union representatives agree that the Government has a long way to go. Speaking to the ABC, ACTU president Ged Kearney suggested that an unpopular budget and poor economic management were to blame for the less-than-ideal economic statistics. “Why this government is pursuing this path of cutting, cutting, cutting – cutting skills and programs, cutting support to apprenticeship programs, not actually investing in training up a workforce is beyond me,” Ms Kearney said.

“You can’t cut your way to growth. We’re very, very concerned about this because we are heading towards a situation where structural unemployment, as opposed to cyclical unemployment, becomes very high. Once you have unemployment staying at high levels for long periods of time, it’s much more difficult to reverse that trend,” she explained. “The workforce becomes deskilled and people lose the ability to actually re-enter the workforce.”

Opposition spokesman Brendan O’Connor noted the Government was denying the impact of their own disastrous policy initiatives and budget measures. “What’s most concerning since the last election is that 100,000 Australians are in an unemployment queue,” Mr O’Connor told the ABC.

This is worrying news for many Australians facing increased adversity and economic intransigence. For all our sakes, let’s hope the Government can finally correct the route and chart a course towards greener economic pastures…

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