Labour force figures released today by the ABS confirm the Morrison Government’s Economic Plan is working.
The unemployment rate fell to 4.0 per cent in February, the equal lowest rate since the inception of the monthly series in February 1978 and the female unemployment rate fell to 3.8 per cent in February, the lowest rate recorded since May 1974.
The figures show that seasonally adjusted employment surged in February 2022, by 77,400 (or 0.6 per cent), exceeding all market expectations, to stand at a record high of 13,372,000. Employment is now 376,500 (or 2.9 per cent) above the level recorded in March 2020 (when Australia recorded its 100th case of COVID-19).
Importantly, full-time employment increased by 121,900 (or 1.3 per cent) in February and is now 361,400 (or 4.1 per cent) above the level recorded in March 2020.
Part-time employment fell by 44,500 (or 1.1 per cent) in February but is still 15,200 (or 0.4 per cent) above the level recorded in March 2020.
Aggregate hours worked rebounded sharply, by 148.7 million hours (or 8.9 per cent) in February, due to a significant fall in Omicron cases over the month. The number of hours worked is now 48,400 (or 2.7 per cent) above the level recorded in March 2020.
The participation rate surged to a new record high, of 66.4 per cent in February 2022, and is now 0.6 percentage points above the 65.9 per cent recorded in March 2020.
It is also worth noting that the female participation rate rose by 0.2 percentage points over the month, to a new record high of 62.4 per cent in February 2022, and is now 1.2 percentage points higher than it was at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.
Today’s figures reflect the underlying strength and resilience of the Australian labour market, despite the temporary setback caused by the Omicron outbreak.
The opening of Australia’s international borders, together with a long pipeline of construction activity and strong Government fiscal support, should result in a continued expansion in labour market activity in the months ahead, despite the economic headwinds resulting from the war in Ukraine, the flooding in Eastern Australia and the ongoing uncertainty surrounding COVID-19.
Indeed, the National Skills Commission’s Internet Vacancy Index, a key forward partial indicator of employment growth, is now 60.4 per cent (or 101,600) above its pre-COVID level.
Moreover, information from the RBA’s business liaison program suggests that there will be strong growth in hours worked and jobs in the coming months, with the Bank’s central forecast suggesting the unemployment rate will fall to below 4 per cent over the course of 2022.