Australian employment grew for a seventh consecutive month in April, recording another hefty increase in the process.
According to the ABS, employment surged by 37,400 in seasonally adjusted terms, easily surpassing expectations for an increase of 5,000.
The March result, previously reported as a gain of 60,900, was revised fractionally lower to show an increase of 60,000.
As a result of the strong lift in hiring seen in March and April, the total number of employed Australians rose to 12.099 million, the highest level on record.
Over the past year, employment grew by 192,000, the largest annual increase since July 2016. At 1.61%, the percentage increase was also the fastest since July last year.
Full-time employment decreased by 11,600 to 8,227,400 while part-time employment jumped by 49,000 to 3,871,900.
Male employment grew by 30,900 to 6,491,300 while female employment rose by a smaller 6,500 to 5,608,000.
By state and territory, Victoria recorded the largest increase in employment at 18,600. That outpaced gains of 13,200, 9,800 and 9,700 in Western Australia, Queensland and new South Wales.
South Australia, at 5,000, was the only state to register a decline in employment during the month.
Taking some of the gloss off the headline result, the ABS reported that monthly hours worked fell by 4.3 million hours to 1.6595 billion hours in seasonally adjusted terms. The decline was driven by a drop in full-time hours worked of 0.5%, partially offset by a lift in part-time hours of 0.7%.
This, despite the recent recovery in hiring, will raise questions over the level of slack that exists within the labour market at present.
From a year earlier, total hours worked grew by 1.3%, the fastest increase since February 2016. Full-time hours grew by 1% — also the fastest annual increase since February last year — while part-time hours rose by 2.8%.
The growth in the latter was the weakest since March 2015.
With employment growing faster than expected, the unemployment rate tumbled 0.2% to 5.7%, leaving it at a four-month low.
This was despite the participation rate remaining steady at 64.8%.
A steep decline in male unemployment drove the fall in the headline rate, sliding to 5.4%, the lowest level since February 2013. The female unemployment rate held steady at 6.0%.
The total number of unemployed fell by 19,100 to 732,300.
Of the states, Western Australia’s unemployment rate dipped by 0.5% to 5.9%, the largest decline across the country. New South Wales saw its rate dip 0.3% to 4.7%, leaving it with the lowest rate nationally.
Despite recording the largest increase in hiring during the month, Victoria’s unemployment rate held steady at 6.1%.
South Australia, unsurprisingly, saw its rate lift 0.3% to 7.3%, the highest level of all the states and territories.
Despite the weakness in hours worked, the acceleration in employment growth and drop in the unemployment rate continues to suggest that the labour market is improving, mirroring other alternate indicators such as job ads, job vacancies and the NAB and Ai Group PMI surveys.
It will also provide further confidence to the RBA that conditions are strengthening, something that it will require to bring underlying inflation back to within target and spur on economic growth.
In the minutes of the bank’s May monetary policy meeting, it noted that forward-looking indicators of labour demand, including data on vacancies and surveyed employment intentions, indicated that employment growth would pick up a little.
This data will help to reinforce that view.
Financial markets have certainly liked the report, bidding up the Australian dollar following the release of the April report.
The AUD/USD currently sits at .7454, up 0.31% for the session. The ASX 200 has also moved off its earlier lows, currently trading down 1.18% at 5,717.5 points.
Australian government bond futures have also fallen from their session highs with the 3-year future currently sitting at 98.24, down three ticks from levels seen in early trade.