September Jobs Data Falls Flat After August Surprise

By Glenn Dyer | More Articles by Glenn Dyer

On the day the Reserve Bank made it clear it would not be lifting interest rates until it was convinced unemployment was sustainably falling and inflation was firmly in the 2%-3% target range, the September Labour Force report produced no clear guide on whether jobless numbers were continuing to improve.

The data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics did show that 9 million more hours were worked last month, but 29,500 left the workforce and the unemployment rate edged up 0.1% to 6.9%.

That would indicate employers gave more hours to existing employees than hire new ones (or rehire) a sign that perhaps they are becoming a little more circumspect.

Victoria had a big influence – employment in Victoria fell by 36,000 jobs, following a 37,000 drop in August, and hours worked in the state dropped 2.1%.

If those negatives had not happened, the employment picture would have looked very different, especially hours worked.

The underemployment rate rose 0.1% to 11.4%, with the participation rate falling 0.1% to 64.8 percent – both slightly negative.

Over September full-time employment dropped by 20,100 to more than 8.5 million people while part-time employment fell by 9,400 to about 4 million workers.

September’s reading was very different to August’s surprising figures.

More than 110,000 new jobs were created in August pushing the unemployment rate down to 6.8% from 7.5%.

September’s figure saw total employment back above 12.5 million, that’s levels last seen in July 2018, total hours only lifted by 0.1 percent and there was a significant increase in part-time positions and sole traders.

ABS head of labour statistics Bjorn Jarvis said the employment in September was now 3.3% below March.

“The data also showed that hours worked rose by 0.5 percent, following a small decrease in August [0.1 percent]. However, hours worked were 5.1 percent below March,” he said.

So the economy is not out of the woods by any measure.

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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