Unemployment remains at 4 per cent but expected to fall further

Talking points

  • The unemployment rate for March remained at 4 per cent, despite an increase in the number of people working.
  • The underemployment rate fell to 6.3 per cent, its lowest point since November 2008.
  • Unemployment continues to fall faster for women, reaching 3.7 per cent in March. The unemployment rate for men is 4.2 per cent.

The unemployment rate bucked expectations and remained at 4 per cent in March as the jobless rate continues to fall faster for women than men, with the number of people in jobs growing for the fifth month in a row.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show there were 18,000 more people in jobs in March and unemployment fell by 12,000. ABS head of labour statistics Bjorn Jarvis said it meant the unemployment rate decreased slightly last month, but remained at 4 per cent in rounded terms.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison meeting a saw mill worker in Launceston on Thursday.Credit:James Brickwood

“4.0 per cent is the lowest the unemployment rate has been in the monthly survey,” Jarvis said. “Lower rates were seen in the series before November 1974, when the survey was quarterly.”

The data was published on day four of the election campaign, with both major parties focused on the cost of living as inflation rises and the official cash rate set to increase within weeks.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison claimed credit for the falling unemployment rate before the figure was announced, saying the Coalition had the economic plan to keep putting people into work. Labor leader Anthony Albanese said a lower jobless rate was good news but the party wanted to ensure those working three or more jobs had secure work.

Markets expect the jobless rate to fall even further this year. NAB is forecasting the unemployment rate to hit 3.5 per cent by the middle of the year and remain at that rate through 2023. The Reserve Bank has forecast unemployment will remain below 4 per cent into next year as well.

The number of people in jobs has also remained the same, according to the ABS labour force survey – staying at the record high of 66.4 per cent.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese meeting healthcare workers in Cessnock on Thursday.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

The proportion of people in full-time work increased by 20,500 to nearly 9.3 million people, and the underemployment rate has fallen 0.2 percentage points to 6.3 per cent.

Jarvis said the unemployment rate for women eased further to 3.7 per cent, the lowest it has been since May 1974. The rate of 4.2 per cent for men is the second-lowest level since November 2008 and just above the December 2021 rate of 4.1 per cent.

In NSW, the unemployment rate for March was 3.9 per cent, and in Victoria it was 4 per cent.

Speaking before the data was published, Albanese said he wanted to see unemployment “as low as possible”, but it was important to ensure people had secure work.

“Half a million people are working three jobs or more, and that is an increase of 50 per cent since this government came along,” he said while campaigning in the marginal NSW seat of Hunter.

“That figure of half a million people working three or more jobs is astonishing, and it continues to grow.”

Morrison said a Coalition government would keep putting Australians in jobs, while announcing funding for the forestry industry in the marginal seat of Bass in Tasmania.

“We have put people into jobs and keep delivering the infrastructure projects on the ground,” he said on Thursday morning.

“The big infrastructure projects we’re delivering can keep generating those jobs, which has seen us go to the head of the international pack.”

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