Australia's slow but sure jobs improvement

Slow but sure. Photo: Joel Kowsky/ NASA via Getty.

Australia’s labour market, yet again, has exceeded expectations in August.

Over the month employment increased by 17,400, smashing the median market forecast for a gain of 5,000. As a result of the increase, the total number of employed rose to 11,775,800, the highest level on record.

The jump in employment was driven by increases in male full-time employment, and female full-time and part-time employment, with the largest increase seen in full-time employment for males (up 10,100).

Overall full-time employment increased by 11,500, significantly above the 5,900 gain in part-time employment.

Changes in all the key figures are shown in the table below.

As a consequence of the lift in employment and a decline in labour market participation to 65.0%, the unemployment rate fell to 6.2%, in line with expectations. In July it rose to 6.3%, the highest level since 2002.

Before the August report was released there was a large degree of uncertainty about the data due to the government tightening requirements for jobseekers in order to receive unemployment benefits. In July labour force participation soared by the largest amount in 13 years, something that many believed was partially a consequence of these changes.

Across the country unemployment fell in Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania and held steady in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia. At 6.0%, New South Wales recorded the lowest unemployment rate across the nation. South Australia, at 7.9%, had the highest.

The table from the ABS below reveals the disparity in unemployment across the country.

Despite the sharp increase in employment, hours worked fell by 0.6 million hours to 1,623.8 million hours.

The seasonally adjusted underemployment rate remained steady at 8.4% in August 2015, unchanged from when it was last released in May. Combined with the unemployment rate, labour force underutilisation was unchanged at 14.3%, again unrevised from May.

Having fallen in the minutes before the report was released, the Australian dollar has staged a small rally in response to the upside jobs beat, jumping from .6943 to as high as .6984 in the minutes following its release. Shortly before midday AEST it currently sits at .6980.

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