ABS employment in detail: More bad news for wages

As summarised earlier, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today released its labour force report for September, which registered a 14,700 increase in total employment and a decrease in the headline unemployment rate (from 5.3% to 5.2%) due to a 0.07% decrease in labour force participation.

In trend terms, the unemployment rate was steady at 5.3%:

Again, total employment rose by a seasonally adjusted 14,700 to 12,944,000. Full-time jobs rose by 26,200, whereas part-time employment fell by 11,400:

The participation rate fell by 0.07% to 66.10%, which is the main reason why the unemployment rate fell despite sluggish jobs growth:

Trend jobs growth is softening:

The trend annual growth rate is 2.5%, with full-time employment at 2.1% while part-time employment is growing at 2.9%:

The proportion of the population in full-time work is still tracking near all-time lows:

In September, the major eastern states easily led jobs growth over the past year in seasonally-adjusted terms:

The state seasonally-adjusted figures are notoriously volatile and subject to a big margin of error. As such, the below chart tracks state jobs growth in trend terms. Here, NSW and VIC have driven the jobs growth, followed by QLD:

SA, QLD and TAS have the highest seasonally adjusted unemployment and NSW and VIC the lowest:

The below chart shows the ABS’ more reliable trend unemployment rates, which shows NSW and VIC with the lowest unemployment and TAS, SA and QLD with the highest:

The aggregate number of hours worked rose 0.23% in September, with total hours worked rising 2.0% over the past year:

The below chart, which tracks the annual change in hours worked on a trend basis, paints a mixed picture, with differing growth across jurisdictions and 1.8% growth recorded nationally:

Average hours worked is fading again and has hit the lowest level on record:

Workforce participation is still tracking around all-time highs in trend terms:

The next chart summarises the annual change in the key employment aggregates on a seasonally-adjusted basis, which shows a mixed labour market:

Finally, the ABS has switched to monthly reporting of underemployment and labour underutilisation. This shows a trend deterioration over recent months, with underemployment stuck near all-time highs:

Given the strong correlation between underemployment and wages growth, this suggests that wages will remain in the gutter.

Moreover, with the housing market having experienced heavy falls in approvals, and most leading indicators like job ads and business conditions showing broad-based weakness, it’s only a matter of time before jobs growth craters and unemployment rises.

Unconventional Economist

Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.

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