Employment improved slightly across Australia in the first two weeks of November with Victoria outpacing the rest of the country after being relieved of its tight COVID-19 restrictions.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics latest payrolls report shows jobs grew 0.1 per cent nationally in the fortnight to November 14, but by 0.4 per cent in Victoria.
ABS head of labour statistics Bjorn Jarvis said this was the third consecutive fortnightly payroll jobs rise in Victoria, but they remain 5.4 per cent lower than mid-March when the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Nationally, payroll jobs are down 2.9 per cent since mid-March.
The payrolls report was introduced to provide a more frequent update on the labour market during the pandemic to complement the official monthly report.
Improving economic conditions and the relaxation of restrictions in South Australia after its brief COVID-19 lockdown has provided a bounce to consumer confidence.
The weekly ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index – a pointer to future household spending – rose 2.9 per cent to 107.5, its highest level since late February.
The index fell in the previous week, which ended an 11-week run of consecutive gains.
ANZ head of Australian economics David Plank noted the ‘time to buy a major household item’ sub-index surged to its highest level since March 1, while perceptions of economic conditions are the highest in more than a year.
“This could bode well for economic activity and spending over the coming weeks,” Mr Plank said releasing the report on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, growing new manufacturing orders suggest a continuing recovery in the sector heading into 2021.
The Australian Industry Group’s performance of manufacturing index declined 4.2 points to 52.1 points in November, but held above the key 50 points level which separates expansion from contraction.
“The manufacturing sector was broadly stable in November after a return to positive territory in October,” Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox said.
“Encouragingly, both new orders and employment continued to grow in November, pointing to the prospect of a continuing recovery as we head towards the end of the year.”
The reports come ahead of the Reserve Bank’s monthly board meeting, the last gathering until February next year. It does not usually meet in January.
Economists are not expecting anything new from the meeting after the central bank last month cut the rates to its growing number of policy measures, including the cash rate, to a record low 0.1 per cent, and reiterated that rates are unlikely to rise for three years.
It also entered into a quantitative easing program for the first time, announcing $100 billion of bond purchases over the next six months with the intent of keeping market interest rates low and, in turn, borrowing costs down.
Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe will appear before the House of Representatives economics committee on Wednesday.