A rise of almost 20,000 jobs in March has left Australia’s unemployment rate steady at 5.3 per cent.
The Bureau of Statistics survey figures estimate that 30,100 extra full-time jobs were created last month, while part-time employment decreased by 10,600, seasonally adjusted.
Perhaps paradoxically, the total number of hours worked in the survey period fell by 0.6 per cent, despite the apparent shift from part-time to full-time employment.
A full-time employee is someone who worked 35 or more hours a week in the survey period, therefore the Bureau says that the fall in hours probably reflects a slight cut in full-time hours.
The participation rate also eased marginally from 65.2 to 65.1 per cent.
The more stable trend unemployment rate (effectively a rolling average over several months) was also steady at 5.3 per cent.
The figures came in right on market expectations – the 20 economists surveyed by Bloomberg were, on average, expecting 20,000 extra jobs in March, leaving unemployment steady at 5.3 per cent.
“The numbers are spot on expectations. Even though there is a bit of strength running through full-time employment, which is up 30,000, hours worked actually came back by 0.6 percent through the course of the month,” Nomura economist, Stephen Roberts told Reuters.
“It’s where most people thought the labour market should be at this point. So there aren’t any real implications for financial markets. It does not give us any further clues on what may happen next (with the Reserve Bank of Australia).”
CommSec’s chief economist, Craig James, agrees the result is unlikely to influence the Reserve Bank’s thinking on interest rates.
“Overall this is another solid result. More jobs created, no change in the jobless rate but some slippage in the number of hours worked,” he wrote in a note about the results.
“It is a result that gives you that warm, inner glow signifying that all is well with the economy without the result being so strong that you start to fret that the Reserve Bank will need to jack up interest rates.”
Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard says she is pleased with today’s unemployment figures, saying they reflect the underlying strength of the Australian economy.
“But these figures also underscore the need for caution in a too rapid withdrawal of economic stimulus, given the work it has obviously done and is continuing to do to support Australian jobs during the days of the financial crisis and global recession,” she said.
The Australian dollar increased slightly on the news from about 92.6 US cents to about 92.7 US cents after the data was released.
State by state
The state by state breakdown shows a somewhat weaker picture, with unemployment rising in five of the eight states and territories.
South Australia had the biggest jump, with the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate surging from 4.8 per cent to 5.4 per cent in March.
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rates in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia all ticked up by 0.1 percentage points, leaving New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania with the highest seasonally adjusted unemployment rates of 5.5 per cent.
That is despite Queensland recording a small reduction in unemployment, which eased from 5.6 per cent last month.
Tasmania’s more stable trend unemployment rate is 5.8 per cent, while the Northern Territory has the nation’s lowest unemployment at 3.2 per cent in trend terms.