Spare Capacity: Jobs Data Goes Downhill In October

By Glenn Dyer | More Articles by Glenn Dyer

More signs in October that the great jobs boom is losing its bloom

In seasonally adjusted terms October saw the largest monthly fall job numbers in three years, sparking the usual speculation about another rate cut – in December.

But it would pay to wait a month to see what the November figures look like before shouting ‘jobs crisis looms’.

The detail however in the labour force report does suggest that on both a seasonally adjusted and trend basis, that the great three-year jobs boom is losing its ooomph.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Thursday reported that total employment fell by 19,000 in October. It was the largest drop in employment since September 2016 and only the second monthly drop since then.

The market had been looking for a rise of 15,000. Instead, full-time employment fell 10,300 while part-time dropped by 8700. The decline pushed the jobless rate up to 5.3% from 5.2%.

Seasonally adjusted annual growth has fallen to 2%, the same as the long term average.

The rise had been forecast by economists with the number of people looking for work rising by 17,100. The underemployment rate increased by 0.2 percentage points to 8.5%, seasonally adjusted.

That rise suggests there’s still confidence among unemployed people that there are new jobs available. But it could also be a rise in the number of people made newly jobless. Sorting that out will take a month or two.

But trend employment again rose, According to the ABS. It is less volatile than the seasonally adjusted data.

The ABS said trend monthly employment increased by around 12,300 people in October with full-time employment up by around 5,800 people and part-time employment by around 6,500 people.

Over the past year, trend employment increased by around 268,500 people (2.1%), which continued to be above the average annual growth over the past 20 years (2.0%). That was down sharply from the 2.4% annual rate of growth (around 300,000 new jobs) in the year to September,

Full-time employment increased by 1.8% and part-time employment increased by 2.8% over the past year.

The trend monthly hours worked increased by 0.2% in October 2019 and by 1.7% over the past year. This was slightly above the 20-year average year-on-year growth of 1.6% for the year to October (but down from the 1.7% average in the year to September).

There are now 726,000 people looking for work, the highest number since March 2017.

The jobless rate in NSW lifted by 0.3 percentage points to 4.8% and also increased in Victoria to the same level. In the Northern Territory, it increased to 5.9%.

It was steady in Queensland at 6.5%, Western Australia at 5.7%, and the ACT at 3.3%, and fell in Tasmania to 5.9% and South Australia to 6.2%.

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.

View more articles by Glenn Dyer →