Research Discussion Paper – RDP 9804 Stylised Facts of the Australian Labour Market


This paper examines some stylised facts of trends in employment and unemployment over the past 30 years. The most noteworthy development has been the rise in the aggregate unemployment rate over that period. The main factor accounting for this rise has been the increase in the unemployment rate for full-time male workers, which in turn has reflected slower employment growth in the industries that employ predominantly male full-time workers. While employment growth for females has been stronger than that for full-time males, it has not been sufficient to offset the rapid rise in the participation rate, resulting in a rise in the female unemployment rate.

The paper also compares labour market developments in the 1990s recovery with the 1980s recovery. In line with the trend over the past 20 years, the most noteworthy development is the significantly slower growth in male full-time employment. On the other hand, growth in male part-time employment has been stronger in the 1990s. The similar trend in female unemployment rates in both recoveries reflects different forces: in the 1980s, the female participation rate was rising rapidly but employment growth was also strong, whereas in the 1990s, the participation rate has been relatively flat but employment growth has also been more subdued. Finally, the sectors that were engines of employment growth in the 1980s, particularly the finance and insurance, and retail and wholesale trade sectors, have experienced substantially slower employment growth in the 1990s.

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