Public sector jobs in Canberra drying up as cuts, PM's freeze take effect

Public sector job prospects in Canberra collapsed late last year to their lowest ever recorded levels, Australian Bureau of Statistics data reveals.

And the city's business lobby has told Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his commission of audit that they can outsource the capital's economy out of trouble this year.

The ABS's latest job vacancy snapshot shows just 300 government jobs were available in the ACT in November, the lowest number since records began 30 years ago. In November 2012, 800 government jobs were available in Canberra.

There was dismal news, too, for the city's private sector workers. Non-government job vacancies were down by nearly 25 per cent from a year before, well below the national trend that had vacancies slumping by 15 per cent.

In the private sector, just 2300 jobs were vacant in Canberra in November, the bureau said, down from 3100 a year earlier and well down from an all-time-high of 5500 in November 2010.

The numbers represent all government sector jobs in the territory, including those offered by the Australian Public Service, the broader federal sector as well as ACT Public Service and other entities.


The figures were published on Wednesday and were recorded in the wake of the Abbott government's hiring freeze in the public service, Canberra's biggest employer, and several years of cost cutting and efficiency campaigns under the previous Labor government.

The previous low, of just 400 public sector vacancies in Canberra, was recorded by the ABS between 1996 and 1997 as the then newly elected Howard government imposed deep cuts on numbers in the public service.

The highest recorded number of public sector vacancies in Canberra came in the dying days of the Howard government in 2007, when 2400 government jobs were available.

ACT and Region Chamber of Commerce chief executive Andrew Blyth said the figures show a continued trend towards "tough times" in the local economy.

"This confirms what we found with our business crisis survey that we conducted during the federal election - that businesses in Canberra said the next 12 to 18 months were going to be difficult,'' Mr Blyth said.

"That definitely came through in our figures that said employment figures would drop off a bit and that sales levels and profitability would also be affected."

Mr Blyth said he had met commission of audit chairman Tony Shepherd and told him more outsourcing of federal government work to local businesses and not-for-profit entities could give the Canberra economy a needed boost.

"We've said to the federal government that perhaps they should look at opportunities for further outsourcing of particular government programs that the private sector and the not-for-profit sectors could pick up. Research proves that this often results in those sorts of programs being delivered, in some cases 20 to 30 per cent than if maintained in government hands.

"You've got to look at the big picture and make sure you get off the back of small business … simplifying the tax system, making it easier to employ, building key infrastructure … those messages have been sent and heard by the federal government."


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