CommSec: Unemployment rate is a good indicator of job market health


Labour force

  • The unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.9 per cent in June. The participation rate edged up from 65.5 per cent to 65.6 per cent. The working age population rose by 19,600.
  • Employment rose by 23,400 people in June. Economists had tipped job gains of around 15,000. But the May result was sharply revised lower to show job losses of 500 (previously showed job gains of 7,800).
  • Full-time employment rose by 59,000 in June (May jobs were down by 29,400) and part-time jobs fell by 35,600 (Mayjobs rose by 28,800).
  • Average hours worked rose 0.5 per cent in June after rising by 0.5 per cent in May. The number of hours worked is up 1.7 per cent on a year ago.
  • Across the states and territories unemployment rates in June were: NSW 5.2 per cent (4.9 per cent in May); Victoria4.6 per cent (5.1 per cent); Queensland 5.3 per cent (5.2 per cent); South Australia 5.1 per cent (5.4 per cent); Western Australia 4.2 per cent (4.3 per cent); Tasmania 5.5 per cent (5.8 per cent); Northern Territory 3.7 per cent (3.4 per cent); ACT 4.0 per cent (3.8 per cent).
  • Victoria led the job gains in June (up 18,200) followed by South Australia (up 6,900) and Western Australia (up 2,600). NSW led the job losses (down by 17,000), followed by Northern Territory (down 1,000 in trend terms), Tasmania and Queensland (both down 700), and ACT (down 200 in trend terms).

What does it all mean?

  • The latest employment data certainly looks robust – especially given the surge of 59,000 new full-time jobs. However it is just one month’s data and the monthly job figures tend to be volatile. Keep in mind that the prior two months saw full-time job losses of almost 80,000. In fact the previous month’s job gains of 7,800 has now been revised to show job losses of 500 people.
  • A better indication of the labour market would be the unemployment rate which has effectively gone nowhere for seven months. It is clear that there is a better balance in terms of supply and demand in the labour market. Even annual employment growth rate has eased in recent months from a six-year high of 3.6 per cent to 2.0 per cent in June – the weakest growth rate in 16 months.
  • Reading between the lines it is clear that the soft readings on economic activity are being reflected in the job market figures. Manufacturing, construction and the services sector all remain soft, while businesses are trimming new orders and profitability is being affected – given the lack of activity. No doubt the softer economy is ensuring that businesses remain cautious and more circumspect about future hiring.
  • Overall the job market is in reasonable shape, but it is now going sideways. Certainly today’s result accords with the views of the Reserve Bank that the job market isn’t overly tight at present. Overall the Reserve Bank will remain hesitant about increasing interest rates anytime soon. CommSec is still pencilling in one rate hike over the next six months but the data flow would have to record a substantial improvement to justify the rate hike.
  • Across the states the bulk of the job losses were recorded in NSW – consistent with the other key data releases this week showing weak retail spending and even weaker building approvals. It’s also worth noting that if you add up the employment results for the individual states the job gains total a much more sedate 8,100 instead of 23,400. It seems the seasonal adjustment process is playing a part in the overall result.

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