Once again Labour Force data smashes expectations. Unemployment rate falls to 5.6%

We really should be used to it by now! The March Labour Force Survey data has once again beaten market expectations by a long way; employment was up 70,700 in March (the market had been expecting half of that) with the unemployment rate falling to 5.6% (expectations had been for 5.7%). The picture looks even stronger when we consider that participation was up (to 66.3%) and hours worked per capita jumped to the highest level in two years.

If there is a weak point in these numbers it comes when we see that full-time employment fell in March (down 20,800), although this comes on the back of some very strong full-time numbers in previous months. Full-time employment is now back to where it sat a year ago in March 2020 as the COVID pandemic hit hard (actually down 2,600). Total employment is now up 0.6% for the year; the first positive read in 12 months.

In Queensland we also saw another strong month. Employment was up 23,300 and the unemployment rate fell to 5.9%. This is an even better result when we realise that participation jumped in March (up 0.4 ppts) to within a whisker of its 9-year high.

Over the year employment is up 62,800 (up 2.4%) with 36,300 of those in the full-time sector. Hours worked per capita is also up strongly to its highest level in almost 3 years.

Obviously there will be a great deal of attention on the April data to see what impact the removal of JobKeeper support at the end of March has had. However, job vacancies data and the surprising strength seen in the Labour Force data in recent months would suggest that the effect may well be far less than originally anticipated.

Next week we will get the ABS original regional employment data at which point we will be updating the Conus/CBC Staff Selection Regional Employment Trend & s.a. series.

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