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Tim Colebatch
April 20, 2009

OLDER workers have continued to stream into the workforce in the past year even as jobs grow more scarce and unemployment rises sharply among the young, figures show.

Data released by the Bureau of Statistics show that while people aged under 25 lost 91,500 full-time jobs in the year to February, people over 50 added 104,000 full-time jobs.

More unexpectedly, while the number of under-25s who were unemployed or out of the workforce shot up by 129,000 over the year, the number of over-50s unemployed, retired or taking time out shrank by 3000.

That means more older people went back to work over the year — no doubt largely because plunging sharemarket values and interest rates have slashed their life savings and/or retirement income streams.

By February 2009, 30 per cent of men aged 65 to 69 were working, and 58 per cent of those aged 60 to 64. Employment rates were much lower for women, but even so, 14 per cent of women aged 65 to 69 were in work, and 38 per cent of those in their early 60s.

While unemployment rose by 187,000 over the year, the figures show just over half of that was concentrated among the young.

Unemployment rose to 17.7 per cent among those aged 15 to 19, 8.8 per cent among those 20 to 24, and 6.6 per cent among those 25 to 29 — but was 3 to 4 per cent among age groups between 45 and 64. The data came as figures show:

? The number of Australians travelling on domestic flights has declined year on year for the first time in six years, as aviation falls victim to corporate and household spending cuts.

Passenger numbers declined 5.3 per cent, from 3.88 million in February 2008, to 3.68 million a year later. The sharpest falls were in flights to or from Cairns (down 8.8 per cent), the Gold Coast (8.5), Sydney (7.1) and Melbourne (6.5). Qantas this week announced plans to cut up to 1750 jobs.

? Export prices fell 4.6 per cent in the March quarter, as the Australian dollar regained strength and global prices plunged for food and processed minerals, and import prices fell 2.8 per cent, due to falling oil prices.

Economists told Reuters that this week’s figures would show the inflation rate down to 2.8 per cent, with consumer prices up 0.5 per cent in the March quarter.


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