New employment data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) for March on Thursday has shown Australia’s unemployment rate fall from 5.8 per cent to 5.6 per cent, as 71,000 jobs were added to the economy.
“Of those new jobs, around 80 per cent went to women and around half went to young people,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told reporters on Thursday.
“Australia’s jobs market, Australia’s labour market, is recovering 4.5 times faster than the experience of the labour market during the 1990s recession.”
The overall employment rate has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels across the board, as total employment climbed to 13,077,600 in March and unemployment decreased by 27,000 people.
The ABS, however, staved off assumptions that improved employment figures reflect a full economic recovery by highlighting that the data was only collected from the first half of March, before JobKeeper’s expiry.
“The April Labour Force release, along with weekly payroll jobs data, will show the state of the labour market after the end of JobKeeper,” said Bjorn Jarvis, ABS head of labour statistics.
Mr Frydenberg, however, said early figures make a case for optimism, even if they don’t fully capture the state of employment following the withdrawal of the government’s wage subsidy, which the Treasury forecast would subject up to 150,000 people to unemployment.
“Now, we will see the full impact of the end of JobKeeper over the course of the coming months,” he said. “But in some of the early data that we are seeing, we are not experiencing a massive increase in people turning up to Centrelink.”
Meanwhile, underemployment fell by 0.6 of a percentage point to 7.9 per cent for the month, a level unseen since 2014, as hours worked rose to levels unseen since before the pandemic took hold in March last year.
“Employment and hours worked in March 2021 were both higher than March 2020, up by 0.6 [of a percentage point] and 1.2 per cent,” Mr Jarvis said.
“In March 2021, 62.6 per cent of people over 15 were employed, which was higher than March 2020, [when it was at] 62.4 per cent.”
The participation rate rose by 0.2 of a percentage point through March to a historic high of 66.3 per cent, as the female participation rate jumped 0.4 by of a percentage point to another historic high of 61.8 per cent, while the male participation rate fell to 70.9 per cent.
“The proportion of women employed was the highest it’s ever been [at] 58.5 per cent, half a percentage point higher than in March 2020,” Mr Jarvis said, “while the proportion of men employed remained slightly lower than before the pandemic [at] 66.8 per cent, compared with 67.0 per cent in March 2020.”
Employment numbers for March also show Western Australia’s recovery from its lockdown in the first week of February. The state saw employment jump by 2.4 per cent, as 33,000 people found jobs, and hours worked surged by 9.2 per cent, the strongest increase across the country.