Today the ABS released the May unemployment numbers. They showed that in seasonally adjusted terms Australia’s unemployment rate was steady at 5.5%, in trend terms it rose to 5.6%.
It’s is steady in the fact that last month the ABS said the April unemployment rate was 5.5%, but actually this month they have revised it up to 5.6%, so you would be right in also saying the unemployment rate fell to 5.5%.
It was just a bit of rounding, last month the ABS estimated the unemployment rates was 5.5496729%, which was rounded to 5.5%, this month they estimate the April unemployment rates was 5.559% or 5.6%.
When we look at the 10 picture we see that slow shift upwards that has been on since the middle of 2011 continues its slow pace:
The 12 month picture is a bit less slow. In 12 months the trend rate has rise 0.4 percentage points, and there isn’t much of a sign of any peak:
The big interest this month were the revision to the figures from the previous months. Back when the February figures were announced, there was a bit of hoohah about the monthly growth being 0.6%. In the next 2 months the figures didn’t get changed much, then this month we see that the growth in February has been revised down from 0.6% to an ok, but not spectacular, 0.25%.
So was all this growth non-existent?
Well no, the ABS has just shifted it. Previously he employment growth in January was estimated to be around 0.1%, now the ABS estimates it at 0.5%. In annual terms the growth doesn’t change any, but it does show things can bounce around a bit a few months after the fact:
But let’s look at the monthly figures anyway.
In seasonally adjusted terms there was a 0.009% increase in employment in May or 1,100 jobs. So effectively flat. In trend terms the increase was a bit closer to 0.1%, but heading down:
In annual terms you get a pretty clear picture of where things are at – pretty much halfway between horrible and good:
And it adds up to a 5 yearly growth that continues to fall:
Not surprisingly with a flat picture in total employment, the number of hours worked fell in seasonally adjusted terms
When we look at the annual growth in the number of hours worked, once again the current situation becomes clear. Yes the employment rate is good at 5.5% – it’s still around 1% below the average from 1992-2012 – but there’s bugger all growth in jobs or work being done:
As there was not much change in the unemployment rate, and little change in actual employment, it’s no surprise that the participation rate remains pretty flat. It fell 0.1 percentage point in seasonally adjusted terms, but no change at 65.3% in trend terms:
Similarly very little change in the employment to population ratio in either total or 15-64 years only:
Full-time employment for the month declined slightly in seasonally adjusted term, and in annual terms growth remains (as with all the other annual growth pictures) pretty soft
And while there was no change in the unemployment rate of those looking for full-time work, the gap between it and the overall rate has increased in the past 3 months
And that gap is a pretty good sign of how the labour market is going. And when the gap is going up, things ain’t improving:
Finally for the national picture (I’ll do the states separately), the employment of women and men both increased, with men slightly more in May, but if we look in annual terms, we see that women have had a better time of it for a while now:
So what is the upshot of it all? 5.5% is good. People like to complain about the unemployment rate, but it is what it is. But you don’t want to only look at that number. When you look at employment growth a much softer picture appears. And overall the market looks quite weak to me. Now “quite weak” might quite good in the current circumstances, but nothing here suggest that RBA was wrong to start reducing interest rates in an attempt to stimulate the economy.
And as yet, it ain’t all that stimulated.