CHARTS: Why the Australian jobs data is, yet again, hard to believe

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One of the strangest aspects of today’s Australian employment report for May was the unemployment breakdown of the states and territories.

The numbers often resemble a toddler’s scribble, even on a good month, but the figures released for May were difficult to reconcile, even by usual standards.

Here’s a table from the ABS showing the individual change in state unemployment for May.

UBS, in a note following the release of the report, picked up on that theme, highlighting the fall in Western Australian unemployment from 5.6% to 5.1% didn’t “gel with the mining downturn”.

We thought it was strange too, and decided to investigate.

Here’s a chart breaking down the various labour market components in May.

According to the seasonally adjusted figures, all of the employment growth recorded came from female employment. 6,869 full time jobs were created, 1,121 part time. That among males fell by 1,958 in comparison.

That, in essence, means that 46.7% of full time jobs created nationally during May came from female full time employment growth in Western Australia.


Coupled with a 0.05% decline in labour force participation, it saw the female unemployment rate drop by 1.2% to 4.1%, the lowest level recorded since October 2013. That, along with a small drop in male unemployment that came despite a decrease in employment, explain the huge plunge in the state unemployment rate.

The chart below tells the story.

While it could be that female employment growth was strong, one suspects that this is just the latest example of the seasonally adjusted ABS figures being not only volatile, but simply unreliable.

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