If you believe the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there was a massive surge in employment and a huge fall in the unemployment rate in October. Maybe it was the Turnbull Effect, with the removal of those twin millstones Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey so delighting the nation’s employers they immediately embarked on a truly extraordinary hiring spree. Or maybe the ABS’ jobs numbers really aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.

The ABS data shows more than 58,000 new jobs were created in October, seasonally adjusted, and the jobless rate dipped under 6% to 5.9% for the first time since May, 2014. The outcome is much, much stronger than any forecast, which was for between 10,000 and 20,000 new jobs and the unemployment rate remaining steady on 6.2%. September’s original reported figure of a loss of 5100 jobs was revised upwards to a loss of just 800 jobs, although that’s nothing in a labour market of more than 11.8 million people. The number of hours worked last month jumped a seasonally adjusted 1.2%, a strong rise, to 1.66 billion hours. Most of the nearly-60,000 new jobs were full time.

Victoria had a scarcely believable fall from 6.3% to 5.6% unemployment, seasonally adjusted, while NSW fell a comparatively tame 0.3 points to 5.5%. The west, however, rose from 6.1% to 6.4%, while Queensland edged downward — 0.1 of a point to 6.2%.

The trend series, which smooths out monthly fluctuations, also showed a strong rise of 40,000, which was one of the largest seen for any month for a while, but the trend unemployment rate remained steady on 6.1%. The seasonally adjusted participation rate rose 0.1% to 65.0%, the same as the trend participation rate which didn’t rise in the month.

The ABS itself seemed to give credence to the view that the seasonally adjusted numbers aren’t to be entirely relied on, strongly emphasising the trend numbers in its media release. “Trend employment has increased by 260,500 since October 2014, contributing to an increased employment-to-population ratio over the year from 60.6 per cent to 61.1 per cent,” the bureau said. “The trend unemployment rate has remained relatively stable over the year, decreasing from 6.2 per cent to 6.1 per cent.”

Regardless of whether the numbers are reliable or not, they saw the Aussie dollar jump 1% to around 71.23 US cents — a real enough consequence for exporters and import-competing local firms.

Peter Fray

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