A file photo of shoppers in Sydney
The unemployment rate is stable at 3.9 per cent for the second consecutive month. Image by Jane Dempster/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics

All eyes on employment market as more roles open up

Poppy Johnston February 11, 2024

Australia’s labour market is softening around the edges but the overall story remains one of strength.

A fresh batch of Australian Bureau of Statistics labour force data is slated for a Thursday release and tipped to show more signs of resilience.

In December employment fell by 65,100 people, the largest monthly decline since the COVID-19 lockdowns.

The jobless rate hung on at 3.9 per cent, still lower than pre-pandemic trends but above the lows of 3.4 per cent reached in late 2022.

Job ad numbers, indicative of labour demand, have ticked higher in recent months after steady declines throughout 2023.

ANZ and Indeed’s job ad count has picked up two months of increases, a 1.7 per cent uptick in January and 0.6 per cent lift in December.

ANZ economists Madeline Dunk and Adelaide Timbrell said any increase in the unemployment rate in coming months would likely be on the “small side” given movements in job ads and other indicators.

The jobs market is expected to weaken as higher interest rates cool the economy, but the Reserve Bank is aiming to preserve as many of the post-pandemic job gains as possible.

Other drawcards include a monthly business survey from National Australia Bank, which takes the pulse of the private sector and is due on Tuesday.

On the same day, Westpac and the Melbourne Institute will shed some light on the thoughts and feelings of consumers in a monthly index.

There’s also a speech from a senior Reserve bank official this week, with head of economic analysis Marion Kohler to address the Australian Business Economists Annual Forecasting Conference on Tuesday.

Communications from the central bank have been under close scrutiny for their assessment of the economy and the likely trajectory for interest rates.

In markets, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index on Friday finished up 5.6 points, or 0.07 per cent, at 7644.8, while the broader All Ordinaries rose 9.5 points, or 0.12 per cent, at 7884.7.

For the week the ASX200 lost 0.7 per cent, which AMP chief economist Shane Oliver attributed to resource shares and some disappointment that the Reserve Bank this week retained a tightening bias.