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Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Strong jobs growth reduces number of jobseekers in year to December

Continued strong economic growth has resulted in a 5% fall in the number of people receiving unemployment benefits in the year to December 2003, the Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, said today.

According to the latest labour market and related payments figures released by the Department of Family and Community Services, there were 615,778 unemployed clients in December 2003 – a fall of 5.1% compared to December 2002.

Senator Patterson said this was the lowest December figure since December 1990.

She said the number of long-term jobseekers had declined by 6% from 280,614 in December 2002 to 263,768.

Young unemployed clients numbered 92,671 compared with 96,808 in December 2002 – a 4.2% decrease.

The figures show that there was a seasonal increase of 21,555 in the total number of jobseekers in December 2003 compared to the previous month.

The figures jump around, particularly in December because of such factors as students coming into the job market. However, the longer-term trend is a marked fall in total jobseekers in receipt of benefits.

Senator Patterson said good economic management and the continuing strength of the Australian labour market had a payoff for people looking for jobs.

“The Government has implemented a number of initiatives to ensure that unemployed people have the skills, job search techniques, confidence and motivation needed to gain jobs,” she said.

“Nearly 1.3 million more Australians have jobs today than when the Howard Government won office. We have the lowest interest rates and lowest inflation in a generation. We have achieved the lowest unemployment rate in more than two decades and we have seen real incomes boosted by 10% since we were elected.

“This is a long way from the days of Labor when unemployment reached crisis levels. ‘In the recession we had to have’ there were nearly one million Australians unemployed.”