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Australia’s jobless rate is at its lowest in nearly 50 years, working hours up 1.3% in April

The jobless rate in Australia fell to its lowest level in nearly 50 years in April, giving Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s administration a boost as it enters the final days of campaigning for Saturday’s election. 

However, the central bank is under pressure to boost interest rates even higher.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reported that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for April 2022 was 3.9 per cent, up from a downwardly revised 3.9 per cent in March.

Bjorn Jarvis, head of labour statistics at the ABS, said: “In April, we saw employment rise by 4,000 people and unemployment fall by 11,000 people.

As a result, the unemployment rate decreased slightly in April, though it remained level, in rounded terms, with the revised March rate of 3.9 per cent.

“3.9 per cent is the lowest the unemployment rate has been in the monthly survey. The last time the unemployment rate was lower than this was in August 1974, when the survey was quarterly.”

Male unemployment fell 0.2 percentage points to 4.0 per cent, the lowest level since October 2008. Female unemployment remained at 3.7% for the second month in a row, the lowest level since May 1974.

Australia’s jobless rate is at its lowest in nearly 50 years, working hours up 1.3% in April

The participation rate fell by 0.1 percentage point to 66.3 per cent in April but remained close to the historical highs set in February and March.

Here are the other key highlights from the ABS report:

Employment increased by 4,000 in April, marking the sixth consecutive monthly increase. 

For the third month in a row, the employment-to-population ratio remained at 63.8 per cent, the highest it has ever been and 1.4 percentage points higher than in March 2020. 

The underemployment rate fell 0.2 percentage points to 6.1 per cent and the underutilisation rate

Increased working hours

Seasonally adjusted hours worked increased by 1.3 per cent in April, largely reflecting a bounce back from the March falls in flood-affected areas.

“Hours in New South Wales and Queensland increased in April following the impacts of the floods in March. The number of people working fewer hours than usual due to bad weather dropped from its March peak of over 500,000 to around 70,000 people in April,” Mr Jarvis said.

In line with the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in April, the number of people working reduced hours due to illness continued to be high, reflecting ongoing disruption associated with the Omicron variant.  

“Around 740,000 people worked reduced hours in April because of illness, almost double what we usually saw in April before the pandemic. Of these people, around 340,000 worked no hours, which was around triple what we would usually see.”

Another rate hike on the cards

RBA governor Philip Lowe said that business feedback indicated wage growth had picked up in the March quarter as companies competed to attract and retain workers in a tight labour market.

Analysts are expecting that the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) will raise interest rates again in June as it tries to contain inflation, which has reached two-decade highs. 

The central bank’s 0.35 per cent increase was the first since 2011, and markets expect it to increase to 0.60 per cent at its June 7 policy meeting.

For further information see the Seasonal adjustment and trend estimates section.

Full release here.

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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