Big falls in unemployment in Victoria and South Australia have helped drive the national unemployment rate below 5% in March.
Unemployment briefly dropped to 4.9% at the end of 2010 but hasn’t been below 5% consistently since the onset of the Global Financial Crisis. On a seasonally adjusted basis, 32,000 full-time jobs were created and 5700 part-time jobs. The participation rate edged back up to 65.8%, just 0.2 of a point below its all-time high.
While the resources states continued to grow, the big falls in unemployment were in the rustbelt states. Victoria led the way, with unemployment dropping a full half a percentage point to 4.5%, although that was partly the consequence of a drop in the participation rate by 0.3%. Nonetheless, the state added about 7000 jobs.
South Australia also put on 7000 jobs to drive unemployment there down to 5.4%. Participation actually rose in SA. The resources powerhouse of WA added 13,000 jobs, but that was only enough to hold unemployment steady there on 4.2%. Queensland added 10,000 jobs, enough to push unemployment down 0.1 of a point to 5.5%.
NSW actually lost jobs, and there was a big rise in female unemployment, meaning NSW Labor’s parting gift to the state was a 0.3 point rise in unemployment to 5.1%, despite a fall in the participation rate.
In overall terms, WA remains the strongest employment performer, but Victoria is now close behind, followed by NSW, SA and Queensland, still struggling to overcome a property market collapse and the impacts of a season of natural disasters.
Predictably, the drop in joblessness put more fuel into the ascent of the Australian dollar, sending it up over 104.6 US cents. The economies of Victoria and South Australia are the ones most exposed to the impact of the high dollar on manufacturing, but as yet the effect isn’t registering in terms of jobs.