It’s hard to sum up the state of the labour market in one statistic, but that doesn’t stop us trying. The most commonly used figure is of course the unemployment rate, but that can hide some interesting developments in the world of work, like if people have their hours cut or if others leave the labour force entirely. I generally prefer the employment-to-population ratio, which tells us the proportion of working age people (usually just everyone aged 15 and over) who are in work. Still, the employment-to-population ratio doesn’t tell us about changes between part-time and full-time work.
For that reason, I’ve been looking at this measure that I’ve spliced together from the Labour Force statistics: the number of hours worked in a given month, per working age person (everyone 15+). This is a bit like the employment-to-population ratio, but it uses hours rather than employed persons as the numerator.
The hours worked-to-population ratio
This chart tells us that there isn’t as much work to go around as there was before the GFC, but we’re doing better than we were in early 2009. The number of hours per person flattened out in 2011, dipped in January and has recovered some lost ground in March.