Here's the graph for the year to February:
It seemed ultra-flat, right?
Now, here's the graph for the year to March:
It looks better.
As Tim Colebatch puts it:
It was the fourth month in a row that the figures followed a zigzag pattern, falling and rebounding. But the rebounds have been bigger than the falls
To mangle a phrase from the 1980s, the zigs are getting bigger.
But not that much, not consistently, yet.
This chart from Leith van Onselen at macrobusiness shows that in the broad sweep of history employment grew rapidly up until late 2010 and has scarcely grown since:
This wasn't clear when the May 2011 budget was prepared, which is why the budget forecast an astounding (and now unreachable) half a million new jobs in two years.
It's the same for hours worked. We're scarcely doing any more, as this chart from Bill Mitchell makes clear:
Of course all this time the population has been growing, making the hours worked to population ratio look really, really sick, as this graph from the ACTU's Matt Cowgill indicates:
Here Matt Cowgill shows full-time employment growth has been seriously failing to keep pace with population growth. Not pretty, eh?
So, has the jobs market really sprung back to life? It's too early to say. And it is also too early to say that the reported gain of 44,000 in March even took place, given the nature of the ABS sample survey.
I doubt it myself. I would love it to be true. It would be tragic if if it turned out true and the May budget knocked the stuffing out of it.
Finally, when will we ever see the end of silly analysis like this (on Twitter):
"Great job Job figures. Only big surge in participation stopped jobless rate falling below 5.2%"
The big surge in the participation rate was not a surprise, independent of the of the extra jobs - it was caused by them. (Employment drives almost all of the participation rate, unemployment very little).
You can't accept one without accepting the other. The unemployment rate is 5.2%. Live with it.
Here's the long-suffering Chris Caton:
Bear in mind that monthly movements in the participation rate are simply an arithmetic reflection of movements in the estimates of employment and unemployment. The monthly movement in participation is otherwise devoid of informational content. Pay no attention to any analysis that suggests otherwise! If you don’t believe me, ask Peter Martin.
. Technical note: The employment-to-population ratio is sliding
. Bleak Christmas? For job seekers it was the worst in 20 years
. January: Jobs. Things aren't good, yet