Unemployment Treads Water In May

By Glenn Dyer | More Articles by Glenn Dyer

Australia’s jobless rate in May was steady in both trend terms (5.1%) and seasonally adjusted (5.2%), according to the latest labour Force report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics – a sign perhaps that the labour market is starting to fade.

But perhaps not: While the trend jobless rate now has been steady for three months, the number of jobs created in the year to May accelerated to 333,000 in May from 313,000 in April.

The growth rate jumped to 2.7% from 2.5% in April – well ahead of the average of 2.0% for the past 20 years and the stronger than expected 1.8% growth rate in the labour force in the 12 months to May.

The ABS emphasis that the trend data for the Labour Force report is more accurate than the more volatile seasonally adjusted figure.

The static jobless rate helped push the value of the Aussie dollar down to just above 69 US cents in Australian trading late on Thursday.

The ABS reported that in trend terms, May saw employment increase by around 28,400 persons with both full-time and part-time employment up by 13,900 and 14,500 respectively

The trend monthly hours worked increased by 0.2% in May 2019 and by 2.5% over the past year. This was above the 20-year average year-on-year growth of 1.7% but slower than the 2.7% rise in employment in the year to May.

That could have been down to the Australian Electoral Commission employing part-timers on low hours to handle the lead-up and count and other details of the May 18 federal poll.

The trend monthly underemployment rate rose slightly to 8.5% in May, returning to the same level as May 2018. The trend underutilisation rate decreased by 0.3 percentage points over the year.

The trend participation rate hit an all-time high of 65.9% last month, according to the ABS – up from 65.5% in May 2018. (66% in seasonally adjusted terms).

The trend unemployment rate increased by 0.1 percentage points in the Australian Capital Territory and remained steady in all other states and territories.

“Over the year, unemployment rates fell in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, and Western Australia, and increased in South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory, and the Australian Capital Territory,” ABS economist, Bruce Hockman said in yesterday’s statement.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained steady at 5.2% last month while the ABS said the underemployment rate increased by less than 0.1 percentage points to 8.6% and the number of people employed increased by around 42,000.

Seasonally adjusted full-time employment rose 2,400 while part-time employment jumped by 39,800 (because of the May 18 poll).

Glenn Dyer

About Glenn Dyer

Glenn Dyer has been a finance journalist and TV producer for more than 40 years. He has worked at Maxwell Newton Publications, Queensland Newspapers, AAP, The Australian Financial Review, The Nine Network and Crikey.

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