The January employment and jobless data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals that the labour market has started 2013 like it ended 2012, soggy, with weaknesses showing up in various parts. But like a punch-drunk boxer, it’s still on its feet and dodging the king hit.
The jobs report, issued today. has helped the Aussie dollar to continue its slow descent since the RBA sat on rates on Tuesday, but left open the question of when it might cut again, with the bias on the side of a further reduction(s).
The dollar is now trading within few points of $US1.03, down more than one US cent in the past 36 hours and looking more likely to continue lower than it has done for quite a while. In fact the dollar hit a low of $US1.027 yesterday, the lowest since mid-November.
The ABS revealed that the jobless rate remained steady at 5.4% last month (seasonally adjusted), while the number of new jobs rose, thanks to a rise in part-time work, which offset a fall in full-time employment. Hours worked fell, as you’d expect in a weak labour market.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
The number of people employed rose 10,400 to 11.549 million last month, thanks to a rise of 20,200 in part-time work (to 3.450 million) and a fall of 9,800 full-time jobs (to 8.098 million).
The number of people unemployed increased by 2000 people to 659,600 in January. The market had been expecting a rise to 5.5%, and a few thousand new jobs in most forecasts.
The monthly seasonally adjusted aggregate hours worked series dropped in January, down 3.9 million hours to 1,619.7 million hours. The ABS said the seasonally adjusted labour force participation rate fell 0.1 percentage points to 65.0%.
On a trend basis, unemployment was steady at 5.4%, employment was up 5000 or so in the month and the number of people unemployed rose by around 4000. The participation rate eased to 65% (as did the seasonally adjusted), and the number of hours worked eased.
All in all it’s a sign of a weak, but not dying jobs market. The jobless rate has been either 5.4% or 5.3% for the past five months now.
The jobs report both supports the RBA’s decision to keep rates steady, and its stance that it will cut if further softness appears in the domestic economy. More reports of this kind will continue to force the value of the dollar lower, which could be the biggest benefit of all to the sluggish economy.