The Australian economy is exceedingly healthy today if the latest jobs figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) are to be believed. The ABS’s labour figures for the month of March were particularly anticipated. That’s because they cover the final month of the JobKeeper payment (which ended on 28 March).
So without further ado, let’s dive into what the ABS has told us today.
According to the Bureau, the unemployment rate decreased over the month of March to 5.6%. That’s down 0.2% from the 5.8% figure we saw for February. The number of unemployed people in Australia declined from 805,200 in February to 778,100 in March, a decrease of 27,100. That means there are now 13,077,600 employed people in the country as of March, up from 13,006,900 in February.
Pleasingly, both the underemployment (employed people who would like to work more) and the participation rate (percentage of the working-age population who are working) fell and rose respectively. The underemployment rate fell from 8.5% to 7.9% in March. Whilst the participation rate rose from 66.1% in February to 66.3%. Youth unemployment also fell from 5.8% to 5.6%.
What can we take from these March jobs numbers?
Well, it’s clear that these jobs numbers that the Australian economy is in full recovery mode. In fact, Bjorn Jarvis, head of labour statistics at the ABS, stated that the numbers show that the hours worked over the month are back to pre-COVID levels:
Employment and hours worked in March 2021 were both higher than March 2020, up by 0.6 per cent and 1.2 per cent… In March 2021, 62.6 per cent of people over 15 were employed, which was higher than March 2020 (62.4 per cent). The proportion of women employed was the highest it’s ever been (58.5 per cent), half a percentage point higher than in March 2020… The proportion of men employed remained slightly lower than before the pandemic (66.8 per cent, compared with 67.0 per cent in March 2020).
Of course, all eyes will be on the current months’ numbers when they are released next month. The end of the JobKeeper payment will be the largest test the Australian economy will face yet. However, one business leader thinks there is plenty of blue skies ahead. Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX: CBA) Matt Comyn testified to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics this morning. His opening remarks included the following:
Based on the positive momentum we are seeing, our Economics team have also upgraded our forecasts for GDP and employment, and expect to see unemployment at 5.0 percent by the end of calendar 2021, and 4.7 per cent by the end of 2022.
Today, March 2020 seems a little bit further away.