The press have hunted out the largest number they can find for unemployment in the release: the ‘original’ or raw data that shows an unemployment rate of 6.0% for persons over 15 years of age. But that’s not the data that the ABS chooses as truly representative of the unemployment rate. The Age says 5.6% but the ABS says 4.9% is the trend rate of unemployment.
The Bureau explains (if journalists could be bothered to do their job and read it) why the trend measure is more reliable:
“The smoothing of seasonally adjusted series to produce ‘trend’ series reduces the impact of the irregular component of the seasonally adjusted series. These trend estimates are derived by applying a 13-term Henderson-weighted moving average to all months except the last six. The last six monthly trend estimates are obtained by applying surrogates of the Henderson average to the seasonally adjusted series. Trend estimates are used to analyse the underlying behaviour of a series over time.” Extract from ABS Labor Force release for Feb 09 (emphasis added)