Australia’s March jobs report will be released later today, and will likely attract more attention than usual given increased concern from the RBA over current labour market conditions.
When the bank last met in April, it said that some indicators had “softened recently” with the unemployment rate “a little higher” and employment growth “modest”.
That was a noticeable downgrade to its previous assessment, even though it believes that “forward-looking indicators still point to continued growth in employment over the period ahead”.
Given the degree of uncertainty that currently exists, this report carries the potential to generate even more financial market volatility than usual.
Here’s the state of play:
- In February, employment fell by 6,400 in seasonally adjusted terms, missing expectations for an increase of 16,500.
- It was the first decline since September 2016, driven by a sharp drop in part-time employment of 33,500.
- That was partially offset by an increase in full-time employment of 27,100, although that only partially reversed the 44,100 loss reported previously.
- Over the year, full-time employment decreased by 23,200 while part-time employment rose by 127,800.
- Total employment increased by 104,600, or 0.88%, from a year earlier, the fifth consecutive month that the annual rate of growth came in below 1%.
- With the fall in unemployment in February, and with labour market participation holding steady at 64.6%, the unemployment rate jumped to 5.9%, up from 5.7% in January.
- That was the highest level since January 2016, with 748,100 Australians out of work.
- Male unemployment rose to 5.8%, a sharp increase on the 5.5% level of January, while female unemployment ticked up to 6.0%, the highest level since June 2016.
- By state and territory, all saw unemployment increase aside from Western Australia where it fell from 6.4% to 6.0%.
- Mirroring the rise in the unemployment rate, the quarterly underemployment rate — measuring those employed who would like to work more hours, jumped by 0.4 percentage points to 8.7%, the equal-highest level on record.
- Total hours worked decreased by 20.5 million hours to 1.6619 billion hours.
- The ABS said the bulk of the decline came from full-time workers at 19 million hours, significantly higher than that for part-time workers at 1.5 million hours.
- Today, employment growth is expected to rebound, although not by enough to put a dent in the unemployment rate.
- Of the 26 economists polled by Bloomberg, the median economist forecast is centred around an increase in employment of 20,000. Individual forecasts range from growth of 3,900 to 35,000, reflecting the wild monthly swings in the seasonally adjusted data.
- With a modest increase in employment expected, and with participation tipped to remain at 64.6%, the unemployment rate is seen holding steady at 5.9%.
- Given the absence of underemployment data in this report, markets will use the breakdown between full and part-time employment growth, along with the change in hours work, to gauge the level of slack that exists within the labour market present.
The report will arrive at 11.30am AEST.
Business Insider will have all of the details as soon as its released.