Not a header you expect to see too often!
A number of indicators have pointed towards a gradually improving economy, including business conditions at 9-year highs and stronger jobs vacancies figures.
The odd survey out had been the ABS Labour Force release, which has been reporting soft figures for employment growth.
This conundrum was partly resolved as employment was reported as increasing by a thumping 60,800 to 12,059,600 in March, with full-time employment up by 74,500.
That’s the biggest monthly result since the third quarter of 2015 when a similar surprise spike occurred, while the participation rate also lifted from 64.6 per cent to 64.8 per cent.
Now there’s a time-honoured tradition in Australia that if the Labour Force numbers are weak then the economy must be stuffed, and if they’re strong then the figures must be dodgy.
Being sanguine and following the trend series you could say that the economy has added 52,600 jobs in 3 months, which seems reasonable enough.
Looking at the year-on-year growth in employment, there was an increase of 146,000 or 1.23 per cent.
The unemployment rate was treading water at 5.88 per cent in March 2017.
While other countries have been throttling unemployment with stimulatory policy (albeit using slightly different measures for unemployment), Australia is struggling to keep unemployment below 6 per cent on its official reading.
Around the traps
In March the most jobs were added in Queensland (+28,800) and New South Wales (+23,300).
Over the past year, however, Victoria has comfortably been the star performer (+95,300).
While Western Australia grapples to rebalance its labour force, Tasmania has seen its unemployment rate trend all the way down from 8.1 per cent in 2013 to just 5.8 per cent, with jobs vacancies figures suggesting that there is even better news for Tassie in the post.
Overall it was something of a relief to see the Labour Force survey catch up to expectations somewhat in March, but the bigger picture is one of much slack in the labour market.
Bond yields have fallen substantially over the past month, suggesting that markets expect only benign inflation and growth in the economy ahead.
The above having been said, the trend growth in employment suggests that the picture is steadily brightening.
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