The Australian economy has remained strong and creating jobs through the peak of the Omicron surge with almost 13,000 jobs added to hit a record high at the same time as female workforce participation hit the highest level on record.
Labour force figures released today by the ABS confirm that seasonally adjusted employment increased by 12,900 in January 2022, within the range of market expectations, to stand at a record high of 13,255,000. Employment is now 259,500 (or 2.0%) above the level recorded in March 2020 (when Australia recorded its 100th case of COVID-19).
The unemployment rate was unchanged over the month, at 4.2%, the equal lowest rate recorded since August 2008 — below the 5.3% recorded in March 2020 and significantly lower than the 5.7% that Labor delivered when the unemployment rate was rising when they were in Government.
Encouragingly, the participation rate rose by 0.1 percentage points to 66.2% in January 2022, well above the 65.9% recorded in March 2020. It is also worth noting that the female participation rate rose by 0.6 percentage points over the month, to a record high of 62.1% in January 2022. The level of unemployment rose slightly (by 5,600 or 1.0%), to 580,000 in January 2022. Part-time employment rose by 30,000 (or 0.7%) in January, while full-time employment fell by 17,000 (or 0.2%).
Today’s figures reflect the impact that Omicron had on the Australian labour market in January, particularly in relation to hours worked. Aggregate hours worked declined, by 159.4 million hours in January, due, in large part, to the impacts of the Omicron variant.
It is encouraging to note that the level of recruitment activity nationally, as measured by the National Skills Commission’s Internet Vacancy Index, is now 54% (or 90,900) above its pre-COVID level.
Moreover, the RBA has noted that while Omicron has impacted the recovery, it has not derailed it, with information from the Bank’s business liaison program suggesting that more than half of businesses intend to increase their headcounts over the coming months, which augurs well for a rebound in labour market activity in the period ahead.