Australia’s unemployment rate held steady at 4% in March, although female unemployment fell to its lowest since 1974.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics said 17,900 people joined the labor force during the month, fewer than economists expected.
Economists had expected the jobless rate to fall to 3.9%, which would have been the lowest since 1974.
However, the unemployment rate continued to fall faster for women than for men.
“The female unemployment rate fell from 3.8% to 3.7%, the lowest since May 1974,” ABS chief labor statistics officer Bjorn Jarvis said on Thursday.
“It remained at 4.2% for men, its second lowest level since November 2008 and just above the December 2021 rate of 4.1%.”
The jobs recovery was the defining feature of Australia’s post-recession rebound, when the unemployment rate hit a 22-year high of 7.4% during the recession in mid-2020.
Both the Reserve Bank of Australia and the Treasury forecast an unemployment rate of 3.75% later this year.
“While there has been little change in key metrics this month, the labor market remains relatively tight, which should allow wage growth to pick up again this year,” said Sean Langcake, chief financial officer. macroeconomic forecasts at BIS Oxford Economics.
Thus, economists are expecting a rise in the Reserve Bank of Australia’s key rate in June.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Labor leader Anthony Albanese were campaigning ahead of the May 21 election and both chose to address the media ahead of the release of the latest jobs figures.
Earlier in the week, Mr Morrison promised 1.3 million jobs would be created over the next five years, building on gains from previous years.
“My priorities are jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs and jobs,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Launceston on Thursday.
“The world we face right now means that my government will focus first and foremost on our economic recovery with the economic plan that is creating jobs.”
But his pledge comes at a time when there are already severe skills shortages, partly reflecting the lack of skilled migrants due to international border closures trying to contain the pandemic.
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Andrew McKellar says businesses are facing the most severe labor shortages in 48 years, as well as the highest vacancy rates since the start of the recordings.
“Without a comprehensive strategy to address labor shortages, businesses that are already strained with an ultra-tight labor market will be pushed to breaking point,” he told AAP.
“The next federal government must pull all the levers possible to address chronic skills shortages.
Mr Albanese told reporters in the New South Wales town of Cessnock that he also wanted to see the unemployment rate as low as possible.
But he noted there were half a million Australians who had to work three or more jobs.
“It’s a 50% increase since this government came to power,” he said.