Jobs growth continues as female participation rate hits record high

21 February 2018 Celotti Workforce


Booming employment conditions have continued into the new year with another 16,000 new jobs created in January.

The jobs growth helped edge down the employment rate from 5.6 percent at the end of 2017 to 5.5 percent, on seasonally adjusted data supplied by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. 

The number of people looking for work decreased with the participation rate edging down to 65.6 percent.

However, the participation rate for females in the workforce rose to a record high of 60.5 percent.

Part-time work replaces full-time jobs

However, there was a big switch in the composition of jobs on offer.

Net full-time jobs fell by 49,800 compared to a gain of 65,900 part-time positions over the month.

The swing saw hours worked fall by 1.4 percent, or 24.1 million hours across the workforce.

Average working hours are now down 2.7 percent over year, the weakest reading since 2009 in the midst of the GFC-inspired slowdown.

Queensland recorded the largest net gain in jobs (+19,700), while jobs were shed in both New South Wales (-21,000) and Western Australia (-8,900).

That saw the New South Wales unemployment rate jump to 5.1 percent — although it remained the lowest rate in the nation — while the ranks of the unemployed shrank in Victoria to 5.6 percent.

Unemployment rates by state and territory 

Unemployment rate

December 2017

Unemployment rate

January 2018


Source: ABS (Note: All figures are seasonally adjusted except NT & ACT which are trend)

JP Morgan economist Ben Jarman said there was nothing in the figures to suggest wage growth will pick up any time soon.

"Perhaps the most interesting detail of the report is what didn't happen, which is that participation stopped rising, and this immediately put a pause to the very strong trend of full-time job gains, of labour force and employment growth, and of the rise in the employment/population ratio," Mr Jarman said.

"One reading does not make a trend, of course, but this result does highlight the fallacy of composition often repeated regarding the labour data in the last year: that once participation stops rising, the unemployment rate will drop quickly." Stephen KoukoulasTwitter Ads info and privacy

Mr Jarman said most of the variation in employment growth — both weak and strong — had been driven by changes in the participation rate in recent years.

"The hours worked numbers similarly show that while breadth measures of employment have picked up through participation effects, labour utilisation is not tightening," Mr Jarman said.

"We expect unemployment to hold in a 5.5-5.75 percent range, due to sub-trend GDP growth and a lack of further employment growth ahead in bellwether sectors.

"This will weigh on wages/unit labour costs and keep inflation well contained," Mr Jarman noted.

This article was originally written for and can be read here.