Australia’s Unemployment Rate drops to 3.7% in February vs. 4.0% expected


Australia’s Unemployment Rate dropped to 3.7% in February, compared with the expectations of 4.0% and the previous figure of 4.1%, according to the official data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) on Thursday.

Furthermore, the Australian Employment Change arrived at 116.5K in February from 15.3K in January, compared with the consensus forecast of 40.0K.

Bjorn Jarvis, ABS head of labour statistics, said with the key highlights noted below.


"With employment growing by around 116,000 people, and the number of unemployed falling by 52,000 people, the unemployment rate fell to 3.7 percent. This was around where it had been six months earlier.”

“The increase in employment in February followed a weaker-than-usual outcome in December (-62,000), and a modest increase in January (15,000). This equates to 70,000 more employed people in February than there were in November and a growth rate consistent with the underlying trend.”

“The large increase in employment in February followed larger-than-usual numbers of people in December and January who had a job that they were waiting to start or to return to. This translated into a larger-than-usual flow of people into employment in February and even more so than February last year.”

“In 2022 and 2023, around 4.3 percent of employed people in February had not been employed in January. In 2024, this was higher, at 4.7 percent, and well above the pre-pandemic average for 2015 to 2020 of around 3.9 percent."

“In contrast, we again only saw around 3.1 percent of employed people in January leaving employment by February, which was similar to last year and has remained relatively constant over time. This shows that there is a wider gap than we would usually see between the numbers of people entering employment and leaving employment.”

(This story was corrected on March 21 at 01:50 GMT to say that January's employment figure was at 15.3K after it was revised from an initial 0.5K increase.)

AUD/USD reaction to the Australia Employment report

The Australian Dollar attracts some buyers in an immediate reaction to the the upbeat Australia Employment report. The AUD/USD pair is trading at 0.6608, adding 0.33% on the day.

AUD/USD: 15-minutes chart

Australian Dollar price this week

The table below shows the percentage change of Australian Dollar (AUD) against listed major currencies this week. Australian Dollar was the strongest against the Japanese Yen (JPY) .

  USD EUR GBP CAD AUD JPY NZD CHF
USD   -0.49% -0.50% -0.58% -0.89% 1.03% -0.04% 0.11%
EUR 0.48%   -0.01% -0.09% -0.39% 1.49% 0.45% 0.57%
GBP 0.50% 0.01%   -0.07% -0.38% 1.50% 0.46% 0.58%
CAD 0.58% 0.09% 0.07%   -0.31% 1.58% 0.53% 0.65%
AUD 0.88% 0.39% 0.38% 0.31%   1.88% 0.84% 0.95%
JPY -1.04% -1.54% -1.48% -1.62% -1.92%   -1.06% -0.94%
NZD 0.03% -0.45% -0.46% -0.54% -0.85% 1.05%   0.12%
CHF -0.08% -0.57% -0.58% -0.66% -0.96% 0.93% -0.12%  

The heat map shows percentage changes of major currencies against each other. The base currency is picked from the left column, while the quote currency is picked from the top row. For example, if you pick the Euro from the left column and move along the horizontal line to the Japanese Yen, the percentage change displayed in the box will represent EUR (base)/JPY (quote).


This section below was published at 20:30 GMT on Thursday as a preview of the Australia Employment report

 

  • The Australian Unemployment Rate is expected to have eased to 4% in February.
  • Employment Change is foreseen to bounce after January's disappointing 0.5K increase.
  • AUD/USD turned marginally bullish near-term following the Federal Reserve’s decision.

Australia is scheduled to release the February monthly employment report on Thursday, following the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) monetary policy decision on Tuesday. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is expected to announce that the economy added 40K new job positions in February, while the seasonally adjusted Unemployment Rate is foreseen at 4%, easing from 4.1% in January. The Australian Dollar (AUD) heads into the event with a weak tone, trading against the US Dollar at around 0.6570.

Australian Employment Change is divided into full-time and part-time positions. Full-time jobs imply working 38 hours per week or more and usually include additional benefits, but they mostly represent consistent income. On the other hand, part-time employment generally means higher hourly rates but lacks consistency and benefits. That’s why the economy prefers full-time jobs.

In January, the economy shed 10,600 part-time roles and added 11,100 full-time, leaving a measly headline net gain of around 500 jobs for the month. 

Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) announced its monetary policy decision on Tuesday. As widely anticipated, the RBA kept the Cash Rate at 4.75% for the third consecutive meeting. Policymakers acknowledged inflation is moderating but added the economic outlook remains uncertain. The decision fell short of impressive and came out alongside the Bank of Japan's (BoJ) decision to drop its ultra-loose monetary policy, hiking rates for the first time in seventeen years. As a result, the US Dollar soared across the board, pushing AUD/USD to a two-week low of 0.6503.

Australian unemployment rate likely to have declined in February

As said, the Unemployment Rate is foreseen at 4% in February, easing from the previous 4.1%, although still higher than the 2023 low of 3.5%. RBA Governor Michele Bullock noted in the press conference following the monetary policy announcement that “The judgement at the moment is the labour market still is slightly on the tight side,” based on the fact that the Unemployment Rate is still lower than it was before the Coronovirus pandemic. Back then, the Unemployment Rate averaged 5% for nearly a decade. 

It is worth remembering that the RBA mandate is “to contribute to the stability of the currency, full employment, and the economic prosperity and welfare of the Australian people,” according to the central bank’s own definition. Hence, a bounce in employment stands in the way of rate cuts. 

The Australian economy has cooled more than enough with recent interest-rate hikes, and a recession is not out of the picture. In fact, economists believe the November hike accelerated the slowdown and may have been excessive. If unemployment continues to rise, the RBA would be forced into early rate cuts.

That said, a lower-than-anticipated Unemployment Rate will allow Australian policymakers to maintain rates higher for longer, which, conversely, will mean higher risks for an economic setback.

Wage growth in the country is reported separately. The Australian ABS releases the  Wage Price Index quarterly, which “measures changes in the price of labour, unaffected by compositional shifts in the labour force, hours worked or employee characteristics.”

The latest report shows that the Wage Price Index rose 0.9% for the three months to December and 4.2% over the year. That was the first time in three years that wage growth outstripped inflation and the highest annual increase since early 2009. Wage increases pose a risk to inflation. 

The RBA is on a narrow path, as former Governor Philip Lowe used to say, and may be forced into quick, unexpected monetary decisions in the months to come. A higher-than-anticipated Unemployment Rate may not bother Australian policymakers, but it could indeed take its toll on the Aussie. 

When will the Australian employment report be released and how could it affect AUD/USD?

The ABS will publish the February employment report on Thursday at 00:30 GMT. As previously stated, Australia is expected to have created 40K new jobs in the month, while the Unemployment Rate is foreseen at 4%. The Participation Rate is foreseen unchanged at 66.8%. 

Ahead of the release of Australian employment figures, the United States (US) Federal Reserve (Fed) announced that it left the benchmark rate unchanged at 5.25%-5.5%, as widely anticipated. As a result, the US Dollar entered a selling spiral that pushed AUD/USD higher.

The Fed also unveiled the Summary of Economic Projections (SEP) or dot plot, which showed that policymakers still aim to cut rates three times this year, more than the suspected two. Additionally, the central bank upwardly revised its growth and inflation forecast, while unemployment is foreseen to ease. Chairman Jerome Powell held a press conference and hinted that the central bank is in no rush to cut rates. The economy is growing, inflation is still high, and the labour market is tight.

From a technical perspective, Valeria Bednarik, Chief Analyst at FXStreet, notes: “The AUD/USD pair trimmed its weekly losses and moved further away from the 2024 low at 0.6442. Still, as seen in the weekly chart, the wider perspective indicates that the pair has room to break lower and test buyers’ determination at around 0.6400, particularly if the Aussie pair turns south with employment figures.”

Bednarik adds: “On a daily basis, AUD/USD is turning bullish. The pair develops between directionless moving averages, while the Relative Strength Index (RSI) indicator turns marginally higher but remains at negative levels. The Momentum indicator lacks directional strength, advancing modestly just above the 100 level, in line with recent price action, but still not enough to confirm a bullish continuation.”

Finally, she notes: “The pair has retreated sharply after reaching the 50% Fibonacci retracement of the 0.6871-0.6442 slide at 0.6656 but has recovered above the 23.6% retracement of the aforementioned slide at 0.6543. The pair can now extend its advance towards the 0.6600-0.6610 area, while once above the latter, the pair could reach the mentioned Fibonacci retracement at 0.6656.”

Economic Indicator

Australia Wage Price Index (QoQ)

The Wage Price Index released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics is an indicator of labor cost inflation and of the tightness of labor markets. The Reserve Bank of Australia pays close attention to it when setting interest rates. A high reading is positive (or bullish) for the AUD, while a low reading is seen as negative (or bearish).

Read more.

Next release: 05/15/2024 01:30:00 GMT

Frequency: Quarterly

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics

 

Employment FAQs

Labor market conditions are a key element to assess the health of an economy and thus a key driver for currency valuation. High employment, or low unemployment, has positive implications for consumer spending and thus economic growth, boosting the value of the local currency. Moreover, a very tight labor market – a situation in which there is a shortage of workers to fill open positions – can also have implications on inflation levels and thus monetary policy as low labor supply and high demand leads to higher wages.

The pace at which salaries are growing in an economy is key for policymakers. High wage growth means that households have more money to spend, usually leading to price increases in consumer goods. In contrast to more volatile sources of inflation such as energy prices, wage growth is seen as a key component of underlying and persisting inflation as salary increases are unlikely to be undone. Central banks around the world pay close attention to wage growth data when deciding on monetary policy.

The weight that each central bank assigns to labor market conditions depends on its objectives. Some central banks explicitly have mandates related to the labor market beyond controlling inflation levels. The US Federal Reserve (Fed), for example, has the dual mandate of promoting maximum employment and stable prices. Meanwhile, the European Central Bank’s (ECB) sole mandate is to keep inflation under control. Still, and despite whatever mandates they have, labor market conditions are an important factor for policymakers given its significance as a gauge of the health of the economy and their direct relationship to inflation.

 

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