An August Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) unemployment estimate of 5.8% has been announced, unchanged from last report despite predictions of a rise.

It is a similar result announced by Roy Morgan Research last week that showed 7.4%, down 0.2%.

However, for the first time the ABS has released a section on the monthly ‘underemployment’ rate trend estimate, something that Roy Morgan claimed it has been wanting for years.

“A clear problem with the ABS definition of employment is that those working an hour, or only a few hours, per week are in fact entitled to collect unemployment benefits – the dole. This clear contradiction – an employed person collecting unemployed benefits – goes to the heart of why underemployment is such an important issue that needs far more discussion in Australia,” said Gary Morgan, executive chairman of Roy Morgan Research.

The Roy Morgan unemployment and underemployment estimate for August of 14.4% (1.636 million) suggested that many Australians are looking for more work — many more than has been understood by the public, politicians and the media in the past.

According to a Roy Morgan media release, the ABS report of the August labour ‘underutilisation rate’ of 13.9% shows for the first time that the Bureau has started to accurately report Australia’s true unemployment and underemployment situation.

It also stated that, “Australia cannot get out of the recession without this figure dropping dramatically. For the Reserve Bank of Australia to put up interest rates at this time would be economic suicide.”

Another major concern for Australia is for the 13th consecutive month, ‘hours worked’ have dropped — in August down by another 5.8 million hours a month.

Gary Morgan indicated that the ABS figures are a ‘giant leap’ forward for understanding the Australian labour market:

“It is time that Australia’s politicians started a real debate on how to find jobs for more than 1.6 million Australians looking for work or more work”.