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.