Australia’s economic recovery continues to gather momentum, with Thursday’s ABS Labour Force numbers showing a huge leap in full-time employment.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the country’s largest business network, welcomed the announcement that, with more than 88,700 new jobs added in February, employment has now returned to its pre-Covid level of above 13-million. This figure drives unemployment down to 5.8 percent.
“With restrictions easing for many sectors, businesses are able to rebuild their workforce in preparation for a better year ahead,” Acting CEO of the Chamber, Jenny Lambert said.
Importantly, Lambert said, when looking into the detail of these numbers, all the growth in February was in full-time employment, which increased by 89,100 people. Part-time employment fell slightly and was down by 500 people.
Business are more confident to employ full-time
“This suggests that, with this increasing confidence, businesses are prepared to take on employees on a permanent full-time basis, rather than part-time or casual,” Lambert stated. “Full-time employment is now above its level entering the Covid crisis in February 2020.
But the Australian Chamber’s Acting CEO emphasised that it is important to remember approximately 1-million people are still on JobKeeper – and conservative estimates are that at least 100,000 people will lose their jobs when the support package ends.
She said the recovery in employment has been uneven, with job opportunities still lagging in sectors that continue to be impacted by border closures and restrictions, both international and domestic.
Continued capacity limits on venues were also still having an impact on jobs. Accommodation and food services, arts and recreation, and administrative and support services were among the sectors still particularly hard hit.
Effective vaccine rollout will boost the economy
“Many businesses continue to face uncertainty about their prospects, including their ability to employ staff. An effective rollout of the vaccine is important for both household and business confidence in the economy and, therefore, employment over the coming months,” Lambert stated.
ANZ banking group economist Felicity Emmett said the result had taken economists by surprise. “The unemployment rate has dropped like a stone,” she observed.
Jo Masters, Chief Economist at business consultancy EY, said hours worked across the country were now 0.2 percent higher than a year ago, meaning economic activity was on track to be above its pre-Covid outlook in the first quarter of 2021.
“The strength in the labour market also suggests the country is ready to absorb the removal of broad-based government support such as JobKeeper, although there may be some bumps in the road,” she said.