Jobless rates drops to 5.4 per cent in October, lowest in almost five years

16 Nov 11:00 AM
Jacob Greber
Share this article

Australia's jobless rate has edged down towards a five-year low as employers racked up the longest run of continuous hiring gains in 23 years, albeit at a slower rate in October.

The official unemployment rate declined to 5.4 per cent - the lowest since February 2013 - from 5.5 per cent in September, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Thursday.

Employment rose by 3700 after gaining an upwardly revised 26,600 in September (previously reported as a 19,800 jobs gain).

Economists had forecast jobs would rise by 17,500 and the jobless rate would hold at 5.5 per cent.

 

While the monthly gain fell well short of expectations, the report continues the labour market's robust underlying trends. Employment has risen now for 13 consecutive months - the longest run of gains since a 15-month run that ended in July 1994, as the economy recovered from the last official recession.

This year alone some 296,000 jobs have been created - the best January through October performance on record, according to bureau data dating back to 1978.

Over the past 12 months, some 355,000 extra jobs have been filled, setting up 2017 to be one of the strongest years on record.

Full time jobs rose by 24,300, while part-time employment declined by 20,700. 

Callam Pickering, an economist for global job site APAC and a former Reserve Bank of Australia official, said it was no surprise that the pace of jobs growth may be slowing somewhat.

 

"The Australian economy simply isn't big enough to sustain employment growth of nearly 40,000 people a month as was the case between March and September this year.  So we weren't surprised or alarmed by the weaker result in October.

That said; "there is a lot of good news in this release," he added, pointing out that full-time jobs accounted for almost 85 per cent of employment growth over the past year, and that hours worked are rising at the fastest pace in almost seven years."

The galloping job gains over the past year come despite ongoing negative headlines over the closures of car factories in October, as well as ongoing sluggishness in wages growth, which came in at a disappointing 0.5 per cent in the September quarter, according to data released on Wednesday.

Unemployment is now just slightly below the Reserve Bank's prediction that it will average 5.5 per cent for the next two years.

 

"As yesterday's release of the wage price index for the third quarter showed, this tightening in the labour market has not yet started to boost wage growth," said Paul Dales, a senior analyst at Capital Economics.

"And the lesson from overseas is that even if the unemployment rate falls further, wage growth still won't rise much."

Thursday's data shows the jobless rate is now only 0.4 percentage points above the 5 per cent level the Reserve Bank has signalled would effectively represent "full employment" - and below which the labour market should start to generate inflationary pressures.

However, it may be some time before that level is reached. One reason the jobless rate edged lower in October is because around 4500 people exited the labour market, lowering the participation rate, which has strengthened in recent months.

 

Australia's currency rose modestly to as much as USD76.09¢ from around US75.71¢ earlier in the day, before easing back to US75.93¢.

 
 
Read more: http://www.afr.com/news/economy/jobless-rates-drops-to-54-per-cent-in-october-lowest-in-almost-five-years-