Sorting out time to work

Cross posted with permission from Mark the Graph

At the risk of being labeled a pedant, I will return to Matt Cowgill’s chart from which he argued that full-time employment growth has been seriously failing to keep pace with population growth. Matt’s chart is as follows:

In response to my previous blog, Matt tweeted that his chart “… shows that even though there has been solid FT emp growth over some periods, FT emp has lagged pop growth since the GFC”.

At one level I agree. But I am not convinced the problem is as significant as Matt might be suggesting. If we look at the long run ratios for the number of people employed in full-time and part-time jobs to the population we get the following.

There are a few things I would note.

  • The post GFC fall in the full-time jobs ratio was nowhere near as big as the falls associated with the early 1980s and early 1990s recessions (marked in red in the above charts).
  • The full-time jobs ratio grew after the initial GFC decline and then declined again. This post GFC growth occurred at a time when the part-time ratio were not growing particularly (and more recently has been declining as a proportion of the population).
  • The full-time jobs ratio is still above its post GFC minima.
  • The current population based ratio for full-time jobs compares well with the period following the recession we had to have in the 1990s.
  • Economic downturns typically do not impact significantly on the number of people employed in part-time work; whereas they typically have a significant impact on the full-time jobs to population ratio (ie. there is nothing new here).
  • The longer than normal period of a downward sloping part-time ratio (til present) might be the more significant issue (it begs whether something structural is currently happening to the long-run growth in the part-time jobs ratio trend).
  • More generally, the long term trend is a move for some workers from full-time work to part-time work.

My guess is that we might just be on the cusp of a return to growth in the number of people in employment . The evidence is contestable. Nonetheless, there has been an up-tick in the trend series with the last print of the ABS monthly labour force. We have also seen an up-tick in the ANZ jobs vacancy series. If jobs growth returns and becomes sustained it should impact positively on the ratio of people in full-time jobs.