Unemployment rate improves slightly to 5.5% in May, but from part-time jobs rise

The unemployment rate improved slightly from an upwardly revised 5.6% in April to an estimated 5.5% in May, but driven by a rise in part-time jobs, the latest ABS data shows.

The ABS had previously reported a 5.5% unemployment rate estimate for April.

Economists had tipped the unemployment rate to rise to 5.6% in May and is a measure the RBA will factor into its considerations when it next meets on July 2 to decide on interest rates.

Concerns about employment security also factor into house-buying intentions and decisions.

Tellingly full-time employment fell 5,300 to 8,153,600 with an increase in part-time employment of 6,400 people pushing up the aggregate number of people employed by 1,100 to 11,663,300 in May.

The increase in total employment was mainly driven by an increase in male part-time employment.

The number of people unemployed decreased by 3,600 people to 682,900 in May.

"Overall, the labour force report for May was a little better than expected but still reflected relatively soft labour market conditions overall," said ANZ economist Justin Fabo.

"The unemployment rate has gradually trended higher for a little more than two years now and has been consistent with the decline in the ANZ job ads series

"Job ads suggest that employment growth is likely to be slower than population growth in the near term," he says.

CommSec chief economist Craig James took a different view reporting that the "job market defies the doomsayers" after employment rose by 1,100 in May compard with economists expecting a 10,000 fall in jobs over the month.

"If anyone had been wondering what was the true state of the labour market, they would certainly still be confused after the latest jobs result. While job losses at high profile companies continue to dominate the headlines, job numbers across Australia are still rising. In the first five months of 2013 over 99,000 jobs have been created," said James.

"A raft of companies has been telling us that it is hard to attract and retain the right workers. It is just that a small number of listed companies reporting job cuts dominate the headlines rather than the raft of small and medium-sized firms that are getting on with business and hiring new workers. The job market is healthy but becalmed, and consistent with the performance of the broader economy."

The ABS reported a seasonally adjusted labour force participation rate decrease of 0.1 percentage points to 65.2% per cent in May. 

The seasonally adjusted underemployment rate was 7.4% in May 2013

Unemployment across states and territories was: NSW 5.6% (5.3% in April); Victoria 5.4% (5.8%); Queensland 5.8% (5.7%; South Australia 5.9% (5.8%); Western Australia 4.9% (5.3%); Tasmania 7.3%(7.5%; Northern Territory 5.1% (4.8%); ACT 4.1% (4.2%).

Combined with the unemployment rate of 5.5%, the latest seasonally adjusted estimate of total labour force underutilisation was 12.9% in May.

Larry Schlesinger

Larry Schlesinger

Larry Schlesinger was a property writer at Property Observer

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