Friday, May 13, 2011

Jobs market stalls not. Dodgy figure.

Australia’s expanding jobs market officially came to a shuddering halt in April, casting doubt on Tuesday’s budget forecasts - but few of the experts believe it.

The Bureau of Statistics reported yesterday that 22,100 jobs were lost in April after almost two years of near-continuous jobs growth.

Treasurer Wayne Swan boasted Tuesday that more than 300,000 new jobs had been created in the past year with a further 500,000 on the horizon over the next two years.

The 22,100 slide in April was said to be the net result after a 49,000 slide in full-time jobs and a 26,900 climb in part-time employment.

Fuelling suspicions about the figure was an extraordinarily large reported NSW slide of 44,000 - the second-biggest on record and more than enough to account for the national loss...

The Bureau’s so-called matched records show that among the households it surveyed in both March and April employment increased, meaning the apparent decline in jobs was driven by the status of people in the households who joined the survey in April and left it in March.

The Bureau surveys the same households eight months in a row, with about one-eighth of the sample dropping out each month and another one-eighth joining.

“It looks like a statistical quirk rather than genuine weakness in the labour market,” said RBS economist Kieran Davies. “I think it’s sampling error, reflecting problems in rotating new people into the survey.”

Financial markets took the figures at face value, halving the implied probability of a an interest rate hike next month and pushing the Australian dollar down 1 cent to 105.9 US cents.

“But shortly afterwards the dollar started to grind higher as people thought the employment figure would be a rogue number and would be unwound,” said Commonwealth Bank currency strategist Joe Capurso. ‘‘The jobs market is still in pretty good shape with unemployment at 4.9 per cent.’’

Measured to two decimal places the unemployment rate fell further from 4.92 to 4.85 per cent.

The NSW unemployment rate remained steady at 5.1 per cent, Victoria’s climbed from 4.5 to 4.7 per cent and Queensland’s fell from 5.5 to 5.2 per cent as flood recovery work boosted employment.

Teenage employment continued to fall with the number of 15 to 19 year olds in work down 27,000 after a year in which total employment climbed 270,000.

Published in today's Age

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