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FEATURE ARTICLE: AGGREGATE MONTHLY HOURS WORKED: STATES AND TERRITORIES
New South Wales contributed the greatest number of aggregate monthly hours worked (321.2 million in July 1978, and 503.7 million in February 2011). The greatest increase in aggregate monthly hours worked occurred in Queensland (an increase of 194.3 million hours, from 134.5 million hours in July 1978 to 328.8 million hours in February 2011).
Aggregate monthly hours worked can be indexed to compare the growth in aggregate monthly hours worked by states and territories over time - measuring the percentage change in aggregate monthly hours worked in each state and territory since the reference period (taken to the be the start of the series in July 1978).
The Northern Territory had the greatest percentage change in aggregate monthly hours worked over this period (170%), followed by Queensland (145%) and Western Australia (120%), while South Australia (37%) and Tasmania (27%) experienced the smallest growth in aggregate monthly hours worked.
Share of Australia's aggregate monthly hours worked by state and territory
The share of aggregate monthly hours worked that each state or territory contributes to Australia's total hours worked can be calculated over time and used to examine whether this has increased or decreased between July 1978 and February 2011.
Table 2 shows the state and territory percentage shares of Australia's aggregate monthly hours worked in July 1978 and February 2011, ranked by the percentage point change over this period.
The percentage share (of the Australian total) of aggregate monthly hours worked by Queensland, Western Australia, and the Territories increased, while that of Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales decreased.
Queensland experienced the greatest percentage point increase (5.8 percentage points from 14.8% in July 1978 to 20.6% in February 2011) and New South Wales the greatest percentage point decrease (3.8 percentage points from 35.3% in July 1978 to 31.5% in February 2011).
Changes in the percentage share of Australia's total aggregate monthly hours worked across the states are strongly correlated with employed persons in those states: Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory recording the strongest increases in both of these measures. Between July 1978 to February 2011, the Northern Territory's total employed persons increased 173% (from 45,200 to 123,400), Queenslands's total employed persons increased 167% (from 873,900 to 2,330,000), and Western Australia's total employed persons increased 132% (from 527,400 to 1,220,800).
In terms of the percentage share of the Australian total, only two states changed their ranking over this period, with Western Australia having a greater percentage share than South Australia from the early 1980s. South Australia began with a 9.0% share of the Australian total in 1978, which decreased to 7.0% in February 2011, while Western Australia's share grew from 8.7% to 10.9% over this period.
THE GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS
The recent economic downturn resulted in an increased focus on Australia's labour market and in particular on changes in unemployment, employment and the relationship to hours worked. Economic downturns are characterised by an overall decrease in aggregate monthly hours worked but the experiences of individual states and territories during the periods of slowdown and recovery can be quite different. The relative resilience of each state and territory to the most recent (2008-09) economic downturn is analysed below.
During the recent economic downturn
The states and territories were affected by the global financial crisis, showing a decrease in aggregate monthly hours worked during the time period between approximately mid-2008 and mid-2009. Examining the period of negative growth in aggregate monthly hours worked can provide one measure of the duration of the economic downturn.
Table 3 shows the months, for each state, when negative month-on-month growth in aggregate monthly hours worked began, when it ended, and how long it lasted (duration in months).
In the territories, the growth movements were more complicated, with alternating periods of positive and negative month-on-month growth in aggregate monthly hours worked. Sample size in the territories is small and leads to higher volatility, therefore drawing conclusions around small and short periods of growth should be carried out with caution.
Victoria experienced negative month-on-month growth for just eight months (from September 2008 until April 2009), while in Western Australia the duration was 13 months (from October 2008 to October 2009).
Since the recent economic downturn
Labour market indicators such as employment, unemployment, participation and underemployment provide evidence of Australia's recovery from the global financial crisis. The increase in aggregate monthly hours worked in Australia since mid- to late-2009 supports this recovery, however, individual states and territories show different rates of growth.
Table 4 shows, for each state and territory, the low-point of aggregate monthly hours worked and when this occurred, as well as how this has increased in the period to February 2011 (measured by changes in the number, percentage and average monthly percentage change in aggregate monthly hours worked since the low-point).
The Northern Territory experienced a low-point in aggregate monthly hours worked relatively early, 17.1 million hours in August 2008, but since then increased strongly to 18.8 million hours (a 9.6% increase). Victoria also showed strong percentage increase in aggregate monthly hours worked of 8.6% (from 370.4 million hours in April 2009 to 402.2 million hours in February 2011).
Other states have not bounced back to such an extent - showing slower growth. For example, Tasmania's aggregate monthly hours worked varied from 31.2 million hours in October 2009 to a peak of 31.5 million hours in September 2010, but have since fallen to 31.2 million hours in February 2011.
Despite the strong growth in its aggregate monthly hours worked over the past 32 years, Queensland recorded a quite modest average monthly growth of 0.09% (from 322.9 million hours in June 2009 to 328.8 million hours in February 2011, an increase of 1.8%).
The Australian Capital Territory did not experience a period of negative growth between mid-2008 and mid-2009, however sample size in the territory is small and leads to higher variability than that exhibited in other states or territories.
Aggregate monthly hours worked estimates provide a valuable measure of the volume of work being carried out in the Australian labour market. Disaggregation by state and territory allows for a comparison between states and territories, to see differences in relative growth rates and examine how different states and territories respond to economic downturns. This article has presented some descriptive analysis of aggregate monthly hours worked by states and territories and highlighted the possibility and potential for more detailed analysis of these series to be undertaken by users.
For more information on the estimates, analysis or methodology in this article, please contact Felicity Splatt on (02) 6252 7031, or email Felicity.Splatt@abs.gov.au.
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