Full-time jobs post best quarterly growth in six years: CommSec's Savanth Sebastian

Full-time jobs post best quarterly growth in six years: CommSec's Savanth Sebastian
Full-time jobs post best quarterly growth in six years: CommSec's Savanth Sebastian


Employment rose by 13,00 in December after rising by 37,100 in November (previously reported as a rise of 39,100 jobs).

Full-time jobs rose by 9,300 while part-time jobs rose by 4,200. Economists had tipped a 10,000 increase in jobs.

Fulltime employment lifted by 95,000 in the December quarter – best result since the September quarter 2010. Over the calendar year 2016 a total of 91,500 jobs were added – the weakest result since 2013.

Hours worked rose by 0.4 percent in December to be up 0.7 percent over the year.

The unemployment rate rose from 5.7 percent to 5.8 percent in December.

Unemployment across states in December: NSW 5.2 per ent (November 4.9 percent); Victoria 6.0 percent (6.0 percent); Queensland 6.2 percent (6.0 percent); South Australia 6.8 percent (7.0 percent); Western Australia 6.6 percent (6.9 percent); Tasmania 6.4 percent (6.3 percent). In trend terms unemployment in the Northern Territory was steady at 3.6 percent; ACT unemployment was steady at 3.7 percent.

A raft of companies is affected by the employment data but especially those dependent on consumer spending. Amongst stocks affected are Fairfax, West Australian Newspapers, Seek Limited, McMillan Shakespeare and Skilled Group.

What does it all mean?

Employment rose by marginally more than forecast with 13,400 new jobs created in December. For the 2016 calendar year a total of 91,500 jobs were added – the weakest result since 2013. From the perspective of the labour market, 2016 could be classified as a mixed year. One that also confused policymakers - with employment growth was soft over the year but the unemployment rate kept sliding, eventually falling to three-year lows. It was clearly a year, where employers were managing their workforce (cost base) very closely due to a subdued economic environment. In effect, the labour market was largely marking time over the majority of 2016 but there are initial signs of a shift coming.

The modest jobs growth in December, may not sound like much, but couple it with the solid job gains in October and November and it clearly shows a shift in trend. Over the last three months of 2016, more than 67,000 new jobs were created and more importantly all of that was in full-time employment. Full time jobs surged by 95,000 in the December quarter – marking the strongest quarterly growth in more than six years. The shift in the employment landscape is even more evident when you consider that the first nine months of 2016 saw paltry jobs growth of just over 24,000 with full-time jobs going backwards.

Looking forward, the outlook is certainly more encouraging. Job vacancies are holding near 5-year highs, in addition anecdotal evidence suggest activity levels amongst the business sector is lifting. The strength in commodity prices is also a positive and should support an improvement in employment across the resource states in coming months. It is still early days, but the last three months are certainly more upbeat.

The Reserve Bank is likely to look through the latest result and wait on timelier forward looking data. Reserve Bank commentary towards the end of 2016, suggests policymakers are relatively optimistic about Australia’s medium-term growth prospects. Over the next few months the Reserve Bank would be looking to see the impact of the lift in commodity prices - on growth as well as inflation. However the key would be a lift in non-mining business investment. CommSec expects interest rates to remain on hold over 2017.

 Savanth Sebastian is an economist for CommSec

Economy Employment

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