Numbers stump Swan yet again

US President Barack Obama’s gimme-another-chance speech to the Democratic National Convention was rained on by more bad news about jobs. The stuttering US economy managed just 96,000 new jobs in August, well south the 200,000 that more hopeful readings of the gasping economy’ entrails suggested would be the case. The long road to economic recovery – already the longest in US history — will be longer still.

Meanwhile, here in Australia, Treasurer Wayne Swan believes Labor led the escape from our own rendition of Obama’s jobs-deficit blues.

Since before the last Budget, Swan has been ballyhooing that 27 million jobs have been "lost" in the global economy since the GFC while the Gillard government has “created” between 700,000 and 790,000 jobs (apparently the Treasurer believes he “made that happen”).

Swan has made this statement whenever he gets the chance — in Question Time, in doorstops, radio and television interviews and in editorial-page columns published under his byline. Indeed, in releasing his Budget, the Treasurer said, “Since Labor took office, more than 750,000 jobs have been created, in contrast to the 27 million jobs that have been lost across the world over the same period.”

Other of Gillard’s front benchers parrot Swan, most recently Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury, Innovation and Climate Change Minister Greg Combet, Employment Minister Bill Shorten et al.

There is only one problem. It’s not true.

First, for what it’s worth, the 27 million figure the Treasurer bandies about comes from a January, 2012, UN International Labor Organisation report, which stated simply that “global unemployment has increased by 27 million” since 2007 and the beginning of the GFC.

But that is not the number of gross or even net jobs “lost”. Rather, it represents no more than how many more persons are unemployed, including all of those who have entered the labour market for the first time over the last four years as the global labour force has grown.

Second, the number of NET increased jobs or full-time employed persons in Australia has grown by just 380,000. The number of Australians looking for full-time work — not counting the growing ranks of those who have given up the hunt — has expanded by nearly 140,000 since Labor took the Treasury benches. This is the correct number to compare with the 27 million global estimate by the ILO..

Simply put, by the measure Swan chooses to be judged, the Australian economy has lost 140,000 jobs since he became Treasurer.

Net Australian employment growth versus the global trend is nothing to crow about. Indeed, since Labor’s post-election C02 tax deceit, employment growth has been fairly flat, patchy and sclerotic, with recent gains wiped out in the June-to-August data.

And funnily enough, those extra 27 million unemployed workers globally represent only 0.82 per cent of the 3.3 billion global labour force. Whereas, the extra 140,000 jobless Australians account for 1.7% of the 8 million Australian labour force — more than double the global percentage of “lost” jobs.

In other words, and again by his own numbers, Swan’s performance is worse than the global trend. If today’s announcement that 900 Australian coal mining jobs are to go is part of a larger trend, Euromoney magazine’s bestest finance minister eva will have to find another obscure UN straw figure to knock down.

Alan R.M. Jones, who recently cast a critical eye over Prime Minister Gillard’s account of her dealings with light-fingered former beau Bruce Wilson,  was an adviser to John Howard

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