Australia’s unemployment rate falls to 4% – the lowest since 2008

Australia’s jobless rate sank to a new 13-year low last month with a big rise in full-time positions, as the economy shrugged off more of the Omicron Covid disruptions.

The country’s unemployment rate fell to a seasonally adjusted 4.0% in February, compared with 4.2% in January. That’s the lowest rate since August 2008, the ABS said.

The jobless rate for women fell to 3.8%, or the lowest since May 1974. For men, the unemployment rate was 4.2%, or a shade above the 4.1% recorded last December.

The economy added a net 77,400 jobs last month, with full-time work rising by more than 4,000 per day, or 121,9oo for February. Part-time jobs shrank by 44,500.

More people were looking for work too, with the participation rate increasing by 0.2 percentage points to 66.4%, or the highest on record. Hours worked increased by 149m, although remained below the pre-Delta period high of May 2021.

Employment increased for the fourth month in a row, by around 77,000 people (0.6 per cent) in February, and was around 202,000 people (1.5%) higher than the pre-Delta high of June 2021.

Seasonally adjusted hours worked jumped 8.9% las month, making up for an 8.6% drop in January when the Omicron variant caused many people to report in sick or as a close contact.

“While hours worked rebounded in February, they were still around 0.5% below December, and also still slightly below (0.2%) the pre-Delta period high of May 2021, reflecting a second month of impacts associated with the Omicron variant,” Bjorn Jarvis, head of labour statistics at the ABS, said in a statement.

The Reserve Bank has predicted the jobless rate will fall below 4% this year to the lowest since the mid-1970s. The current ABS month survey dates from 1978, and February’s 4.0% rate has only been matched twice previously, in February and August 2008.

“Lower unemployment rates occurred in the series before November 1974, when the survey was quarterly,” the ABS said.

More to come.

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