Jobless rate steady for a third month

Employment, job, workJobs growth has slowed in 2018, leaving the unemployment rate steady at 5.5 per cent for a third straight month.

The total number of people with jobs rose by 4,900 in March, seasonally adjusted figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show, well below market expectations of a gain of 20,000.

The number of people with jobs has risen by 36,000 so far this year, following a gain of over 400,000 in 2017.

ANZ Senior Economist Felicity Emmett said it was inevitable that there would be a period of softness in the labour market after 2017’s stellar performance.

“The slowdown in employment growth comes on the back of a very strong run through 2017 and with labour market leading indicators remaining positive there are still reasons to be optimistic about the outlook for employment and unemployment this year,” she said.

“Buoyant business conditions and ongoing strength in job vacancies suggest that employment will continue to expand and the unemployment rate should trend lower in coming months.”

Australian Institute of Company Directors chief economist Stephen Walters said employment growth in 2018 has fallen significantly short of expectations, but he’s positive about the outlook.

“Business surveys suggest that most firms still expect to lift hiring this year, a message reinforced by our own Director Sentiment Index this week,” he said.

“Ultimately, this should help to boost wages growth from the current near-record lows, as the RBA’s economists have been expecting.”

Full-time positions fell by 19,900 in March, and part-time positions rose by 28,800.

The participation rate – the number of people working or looking for work – rose to 65.6 per cent in March, from 65.5 per cent in February, and compares to 65.7 per cent in January.

The Australian dollar dropped almost one third of a US cent to 77.64 US cents shortly after the release of the jobs figures, but has since recovered to be trading at 77.93 US cents at 1330 AEST.

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