Is employment in the Australian cultural industries falling? John Black can’t tell us

In today’s Australian Financial Review, former Labor Senator John Black has an interesting opinion piece about Australian unemployment trends since 2008.

Black’s research company, Australian Development Strategies, has undertaken some economic modelling on the issue, published in a web paper entitled Australian Jobs Profile for 2010.

In the paper, repeated in his column for the AFR, Black makes the startling claim that:

The industry with the biggest loss in jobs – 25,000 – since November 2007 has been the media – which includes publishers, the music industry, television, the internet, web search providers, ISPs, data processors, telecommunications workers and librarians. These skilled jobs of particular interest to younger Australians have fallen by 11 percent since November 2007, despite the National Broadband Network.
I’m often in violent disagreement with Black’s political analysis, but, if true, his article uncovers an interesting point about unemployment in the Australian media and cultural industries that the gold standard Australian Bureau of Statistics data can’t capture (because it is based on Census data, held only every five years).
Unfortunately, because of the opaque nature of the report, it’s almost impossible to determine where Black has derived his figures from. There’s no methodology section to the report, and about the most detail that can be discovered is the following, buried in a paragraph on page page 3:
This paper looks at the comparison of original or raw monthly unemployment rates in 69 Labour Force regions, across Australia, and uses simple modelling to benchmark these percentage figures against our Elaborate database.
But there is no description of the Elaborate database, so we can’t really tell. It’s the opposite of rigorous. This survey tells us nothing meaningful about employment in the Australian cultural industries.
Conclusion? Australian Database Strategies might enjoy a high media profile thanks to former Senator John Black, but that doesn’t mean we should take factoids like this too seriously.

One thought on “Is employment in the Australian cultural industries falling? John Black can’t tell us

  1. Ben

    Sure the data here is as wobbly as all get out, but as we know, the discussion of the declines in arts occupations has been less than extensive(see the two Aus Co reports released in August noted in your earlier post). So, is it time for a serious look at the arts/culture ’employment’ data & how it is derived?

    The census data says key arts occupations down / culture industries up. But certainly, in the print media there have been changes… MEAA have been arguing that there are journalism job losses for some time (although this did not show up in the 2006 census data … in fact, the census showed increases).

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