Fall In Australian Jobless Rate Surprises Economists But The Numbers Have Been Volatile

Getty/Michael Regan

In April the number of people unemployed in Australia decreased by 2,700 people to 685,300 with the official rate falling to 5.5%.

Most economists surveyed expected the rate to stay the same or increase. Instead it came down from last month’s 5.6%, with 50,000 new jobs generated by the economy, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The participation rate also rose to 65.3%, up from 65.2% in March.

At least one economist has flagged recent volatility in employment data though.

“Because the labour force numbers have been so volatile in recent months, it is hard to be too definitive about what today’s numbers mean,” said HSBC Australia & New Zealand chief economist Paul Bloxham.

“Nonetheless, one way to cut through the noise is to average the numbers since the beginning of the year.

“This shows that employment increased by an average of 26 thousand jobs per month since the beginning of the year, up from 6 thousand jobs per month in Q412.

“This approach also shows that the unemployment rate has edged up from 5.4% in Q412 to 5.5% since the beginning of this year,” he said today after the numbers came out today.

The difference between the picture from the employment numbers and that from the unemployment rate reflects that participation has lifted since late last year (from 65.1% to 65.3%), Bloxham explained.

“All in all, it seems that the labour market has shown some signs of improvement so far in 2013. This supports our view that the soft patch in growth may be behind us.”

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