There’s some good news for QLD in the labour force data

The ABS release of the labour force survey data for Jan gives us our first look at how the employment picture started the year. On a seasonally adjusted basis employment jumped by 39,100 (with full-time positions up 65,400), much stronger than the market expectation of  15,000 increase. An almost-5,000 revision downward of the Dec data only took a little off the shine of another strong set of numbers. However, despite the strong employment growth the headline unemployment rate remained at 5.0% as participation ticked higher.

The less volatile Trend data shows a 24,900 increase in employment which took annual employment growth to 2.4%. The Trend unemployment rate remains at 5.1% (after Dec was revised up from 5.0%).

The data for Queensland is something of a confusing mess but, when we dig deeper, it shows us a generally more positive picture. Seasonally adjusted data has employment dropping by 19,900 on the back of a huge decline in part-time employment; full-time positions are estimated to have increased by 42,200 in January! While this may appear rather unbelievable (and frankly is), the Trend data paints us a more credible picture which shows full-time employment has been on a rapid rise for the past 2 years and was up another 5,000 in Jan.

The conversion of employment from part-time to full-time that this demonstrates does not show up in total employment numbers, nor does it impact unemployment rates. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in QLD fell in Jan to 6.0% but only because of a sharp drop in participation. The Trend unemployment rate is now 6.1% (unchanged from a downwardly revised Dec); although when considered at 2 decimal places we see a decline from 6.11% to 6.06%.

Where the improving full-time/part-time mix does show up is when we consider the average hours worked per capita of working age population. Here we see a solid improvement in QLD, since full-time employment started to lift in Jan 2017. Since then the average hours worked per capita has risen by 1.7% to 87.37 hours; somewhat faster than the 1.3% increase over the same period across Australia.

The ABS will release their original regional labour force data next Thursday at which point we will be updating our Conus/CBC Staff Selection Regional Employment Trend data for QLD and NSW.



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