Australia’s unemployment rate falls to 4% – the lowest since 2008

Australia’s jobless rate sank to a new 13-year low last month with a big rise in full-time positions, as the economy shrugged off more of the Omicron Covid disruptions.

The country’s unemployment rate fell to a seasonally adjusted 4.0% en febrero, comparado con 4.2% en Enero. That’s the lowest rate since August 2008, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said.

The jobless rate for women fell to 3.8%, or the lowest since May 1974. For men, the unemployment rate was 4.2%, or a shade above the 4.1% recorded last December.

The economy added a net 77,400 jobs last month, with full-time work rising by more than 4,000 per day, or 121,9oo for February. Part-time jobs shrank by 44,500.

More people were looking for work too, with the participation rate increasing by 0.2 puntos porcentuales a 66.4%, or the highest on record. Hours worked increased by 148.7m, although remained below the pre-Delta period high of May 2021.

Employment increased for the fourth month in a row, by around 77,000 gente (0.6%) en febrero, and was around 202,000 gente (1.5%) higher than the pre-Delta high of June 2021. The market was expecting 37,000 extra jobs in February.

Seasonally adjusted hours worked jumped 8.9% el mes pasado, making up for an 8.6% drop in January when the Omicron variant caused many people to report in sick or as a close contact.

“While hours worked rebounded in February, they were still around 0.5% below December, and also still slightly below (0.2%) the pre-Delta period high of May 2021, reflecting a second month of impacts associated with the Omicron variant,” Bjorn Jarvis, head of labour statistics at the ABS, dicho.

El mes pasado, “the number of employed people working no hours over the entire week due to illness or sick leave was around 80% higher than what we would usually see in February, having been around triple the usual level in January”, Jarvis said.

The Reserve Bank has predicted the jobless rate will fall below 4% this year to the lowest since the mid-1970s. The current ABS month survey dates from 1978, and February’s 4.0% rate has only been matched twice previously, in February and August 2008.

“Lower unemployment rates occurred in the series before November 1974, when the survey was quarterly,” the ABS said.

Excluding the rounding, February’s jobless rate was 4.042%, narrowly above the 4.016% en agosto 2008. Technically, the series has already had a sub-4% unemployment rate in the past 14 años, con 3.981% recorded in February 2008.

While the participation rate was at a record high, there remains a big gap between male and female rates. For men, the ratio of those in work or looking for it rose 0.2 percentage points last month to 70.7%, while the ratio for women increased by a similar amount to 62.4%, the ABS said.

Among the states, South Australia – which goes to the polls for state elections on Saturday – had the highest jobless rate of 5.0%, and the ACT had the lowest at 3.0%. NSW 3.7% was the lowest among the major states, ahead of Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia, which were all between 4.1% a 4.3%.

Sean Langcake, head of macroeconomic forecasting for BIS Oxford Economics said the labour market was “going from strength to strength” with more expected in March, a shift that would put pressure on employers to lift wages.

“Conditions are primed for wage growth to increase through the year, with spare capacity at historically low levels,” Langcake said, adding that he still expects the Reserve Bank to hold off lifting the official cash interest rate until the December quarter.

Ahead of the jobs figures, investors were predicting the first RBA rate rise would likely come in July.

Andrew McKellar, chief executive Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, welcomed the increase in the participation rate and the fall in the underemployment rate to 6.6% as “particularly good news”

"[F]urther growth in workforce participation is critical to resolving chronic labour shortages we are seeing across the economy," él dijo.

“Australian businesses are looking toward the federal budget for measures that will continue to increase workforce participation, grow investment in skills and VET, and boost skilled migration to plug widespread workforce shortages,” McKellar said.

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