Businesses are still hiring but the prevalence of part-time recruits points to a short-term boost from the Women’s World Cup or wary employers’ shying away from full-timers.
Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows about 65,000 people found work in August, well above the 25,000 lift expected by economists.
The jobless rate held steady at 3.7 per cent for the second consecutive month, marking the 18th month in a row of an unemployment rate below four per cent.
The participation rate, which measures the number of Australians either in a job or looking for one, ticked up to 67 per cent.
ABS head of labour statistics Bjorn Jarvis said together with the 64.5 per cent employment to population ratio, the record participation rate reflected a tight jobs market.
He also said the 65,000 increase in employment in the month came after a small drop in July, which coincided with school holidays.
“Looking over the past two months, the average employment growth was around 32,000 people per month, which is similar to the average growth over the past year,” he said.
The bulk of the August employment growth was in part-time roles, which grew by 62,100 compared to 2800 full-time jobs.
CommSec economists Craig James and Ryan Felsman said Australia’s co-hosting of the FIFA Women’s World Cup may have contributed to the strong growth in part-time jobs.
“Employers may also be bracing for an economic slowdown, preferring to hire part-time rather than full-time workers,” they said.
Monthly hours were down 0.5 per cent in August, but continued to grow faster than the increase in employment.
Mr Jarvis said this pointed to a large amount of work that needed doing and people continuing to work more hours in response.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers said more Australians were in work than ever before and the participation rate was at a record high.
“This is a tremendous result and a testament to the resilience of the Australian economy and the Australian people,” Dr Chalmers said.
Shadow treasurer Angus Taylor said the strong labour market numbers were masking the pain of hardworking Australians.
“Australians are working more hours and taking on additional jobs to pay the bills in Labor’s cost-of-living crisis,” Mr Taylor said.
While starting to slacken, Australia’s jobs market is yet to materially weaken in response to the Reserve Bank’s aggressive string of interest rates targeted at high inflation.
Higher interest rate hikes are aimed at slowing the economy by making it more expensive for businesses and consumers to spend, bringing inflation down while also weighing on firms’ hiring decisions.
Oxford Economics Australia head of macroeconomic forecasting Sean Langcake said the data set neither confirmed nor denied whether the labour market was starting to respond to monetary tightening.
“Firms are still adding to headcount, and with job vacancies still elevated, employment growth will likely hold steady in the coming months,” Mr Langcake said.
He said the data would not move the needle for the RBA, which has kept interest rates on hold for three months in a row.
The group is not expecting more interest rate hikes in the current cycle.