Headline unemployment rate up but the data is good on jobs

The ABS released the April labour force data yesterday and despite the headline, seasonally adjusted unemployment rate ticking up from 6.1% to 6.2%, the data is actually pretty good.

A total of 2,900 jobs were lost during the month (seasonally adjusted) but the substantial increase seen in March was revised sharply higher (from +37,700 to +48,100). The net result was certainly more positive than the market had been expecting.

For some time now there has been significant doubt surrounding the reliability of the ABS seasonal data so it is worth noting that the Trend series actually saw the unemployment rate fall to 6.1% (from 6.2%) with 19,100 new jobs added (and the March data also revised higher to +23,000). When we consider the Trend data there is little doubt that the labour market is seeing some (slow) improvements over the last 6 months with over 138,000 new jobs added nationally. This is the fastest pace of Trend jobs growth we have seen since the start of 2011.

At a State level things are not quite as rosy. Although Queensland saw an increase in employment (+5,200 seasonally adjusted) the data for March was revised slightly lower. The headline unemployment rate in QLD ticked higher to 6.7% (from 6.6%) and, unlike at the national level, the Trend series sees unemployment at 6.6% (unchanged from an upwardly revised March). The second chart below shows the pace of jobs growth, whilst greatly improved in the past 5 months, is still insufficient to keep pace with population growth, let alone start to bring down the unemployment rate.

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