18/01/2018 - 15:27

Strong jobs growth continues

18/01/2018 - 15:27

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Western Australia's unemployment rate has fallen by a surprising 0.9 per cent in the month of December, while job numbers were up for a record-equalling 15th consecutive month nationwide, with economists giving positive assessments of the labour market.

In WA, 6,100 new jobs pushed the unemployment rate down to 5.7 per cent.

Western Australia's unemployment rate has fallen by a surprising 0.9 per cent in the month of December, while job numbers were up for a record-equalling 15th consecutive month nationwide, with economists giving positive assessments of the labour market.

In WA, 6,100 new jobs were created in December. Combined with a fall in the labour force participation rate (at odds with the national pattern), the state's unemployment rate dropped from 6.6 per cent to 5.7 per cent in seasonally adjusted terms. 

Nationally, the number of people in work rose by 34,700 in December, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data - well above expectations of 15,000 new jobs in the month.

Full-time employment rose by 15,100 jobs, while part-time positions increased by 19,500.

The unemployment rate edged higher from 5.4 per cent in November to 5.5 per cent. However, ANZ economist Felicity Emmett noted the increase was accompanied by a 0.2 per cent rise in the participation rate to 65.7 per cent - the second-highest level on record for people working or looking for work.

"The labour market clearly remains in great shape," she said.

"Both male and female participation rose solidly, with female participation hitting a fresh record high."

More than 400,000 positions have been created since December 2016, three quarters of them full-time jobs.

CommSec chief economist Craig James said December's record-equalling run of job gains has matched the rise achieved between May 1993 and July 1994.

"The Australian jobs market is going gangbusters," he said.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull praised the outcome from Japan, where he is discussing trade with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe.

"The participation rate is at the highest level in seven years, and we've seen already consumer confidence at the highest level since November, 2013," Mr Turnbull said.

However, TD Securities chief Asia-Pacific macro strategist Annette Beacher said both wages and inflation remained weak despite the relative boom in employment

"Wages growth should follow such a prolonged outsized employment growth, in turn boosting core CPI ... but at least wages and underlying inflation are both off the floor and rising," she said.

JP Morgan analyst Ben Jarman said the unemployment rate would remain relatively unchanged until the economy hit above-trend growth.

"Given below-trend growth and the particular drivers of employment and participation, we do not expect the labour market to tighten, with unemployment to average 5.5 per cent to 5.75 per cent," he said.

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