CANBERRA, AAP – Scott Morrison has lauded the latest employment figures, saying there are around 325,000 more jobs now than before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics said 77,400 people joined the workforce in February, a stronger result than had been expected by economists.
Full-time employment surged by 121,900, while part-time workers fell by 44,500.
“We have got more people in work today of working age than at any other time of records for jobs in this country,” the prime minister told reporters in Perth on Thursday.
“We have had greater employment growth through the pandemic than any of the G7 countries, the most advanced economies in the world.”
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The unemployment rate fell to four per cent in February, its lowest level in more than 13 years, compared with 4.2 per cent in January.
“The labour market is going from strength to strength,” BIS Oxford Economics head of macroeconomic forecasting Sean Langcake said.
He said conditions are primed for wage growth to increase through the year and how that materialises will dictate the course of Reserve Bank of Australia policy.
But he expects the RBA will remain patient and keep rates on hold until the December quarter.
But KPMG chief economist Brendan Rynne said when this very strong jobs result is combined with the US Federal Reserve raising its key rate by 0.25 per cent, it will add to the pressure facing the RBA to raise the cash rate “sooner rather than later”.
ABS head of labour statistics Bjorn Jarvis said four per cent was the lowest unemployment rate since August 2008 and only the third time in the history of the monthly survey it has been this low.
He said lower rates occurred in the data series before November 1974, when the jobs survey was conducted on a quarterly basis.
“The 3.8 per cent unemployment rate for women was the lowest since May 1974,” he said.
The unemployment rate for men fell to 4.2 per cent, its second lowest level since November 2008.
The participation rate of those in work or seeking employment rose by 0.2 percentage points to 66.4 per cent, an all-time high.
The Reserve Bank of Australia and Treasury are each predicting a sub-four per cent unemployment rate this year, and remaining there in 2023, as the economy makes a steep recovery from the downturns seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.