ABS employment in detail: Fugly

As summarised earlier, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today released its labour force report for October, which registered a 19,000 decrease in total employment and an increase in the headline unemployment rate (from 5.2% to 5.3%).

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

Again, total employment fell by a seasonally adjusted 19,000 to 12,919,200. Full-time jobs fell by 10,300, whereas part-time employment fell by 8,700:

The participation rate fell by 0.08% to 65.98%, which is the main reason why the unemployment rate barely rose despite the big fall in jobs:

Trend jobs growth is falling:

The trend annual growth rate is 2.1%, with full-time employment at 1.8% while part-time employment is growing at 2.8%:

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

In October, 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 QLD, SA and TAS with the highest:

The aggregate number of hours worked fell 0.15% in October, with total hours worked rising just 1.4% 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 1.7% 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, but is starting to fade:

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, retail and car sales crashing, 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.

Leith van Onselen

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