Australia’s March jobless rate stable at record low of 4% despite expectations of a decline | Australian economy
Australia’s unemployment rate has remained steady near its lowest level in almost half a century, with youth unemployment and underemployment continuing their recent decline.
The economy added more than 20,000 full-time jobs in March while shedding less than 3,000 part-time jobs, keeping the unemployment rate unchanged at a seasonally adjusted 4.0%, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
“4.0% is the lowest unemployment rate in the monthly survey,” Björn Jarvis, head of labor statistics at ABS, said.
Aside from February and March of this year, these were the only other months with 4% unemployment since the February and August 2008 monthly employment figures were released.
“The female unemployment rate fell to 3.7% from 3.8%, the lowest level since May 1974,” Jarvis said. “It remained at 4.2% for males, the second-lowest since November 2008, and just above the December 2021 rate of 4.1%.”
The seasonally adjusted number of hours worked fell by 10 million from February to 1.803 billion hours last month.
Thursday’s jobs numbers are likely to be closely watched in the federal election campaign, not least after opposition leader Anthony Albanese’s stumble on Monday when he was asked to give the jobless rate.
The Reserve Bank will also be watching as economists hint that interest rates will rise soon – most likely from June. On Thursday, banks ANZ and Westpac were the latest to hike some of their mortgage rates.
Overall employment figures continue to recover from the disruptions caused by Covid, with 13,389,900 people working now, almost 400,000 more than during the worst downturn in early 2020.
The participation rate remained unchanged from February at 66.4%.
Youth employment, which covers people aged 15-24, rose by 36,000 last month, bringing the youth unemployment rate down another percentage point to 8.3%.
“While young people were particularly affected early in the pandemic and during the delta period, we have continued to see strong increases in youth employment over the past year,” Jarvis said. The ratio of employed young people to population is now at its highest level since August 2008, he said.
The underemployment rate also fell by 0.2 percentage points to 6.3%.
Westpac was the only major bank to forecast an unemployment rate of 4%, while the other three forecast it would fall to 3.8-3.9%. The market consensus rate was 3.9%.
Technically, the March number is the lowest since the 1970s, coming in at 3.9542384%, the ABS said. This is down from the 3.981% recorded in February 2008.
There’s more to come.