The Australian Bureau of Statistics released its February Labour Force Key Statistics showing another month of strong job growth, but an unemployment rate that increased due to an increase in labour force participation.
17,500: The Australian economy added 17,500 jobs in February.
5.6%: The Australian unemployment rate increased .1 percent to 5.6 percent.
65.7%: Labour force participation rose .1 percent to 65.7 percent.
+9: According to the NAB, the business confidence index fell two points to +9 index points.
The 17,500 jobs added to the Australian economy marks the 17th consecutive month of job growth according to Business Insider. This brings employment to 12.48 million, which is the highest ever recorded. The largest increase in employment was in New South Wales.
While economists had expected the unemployment rate to remain at 5.5 percent in February, the increase to 5.6 percent can be attributed to the increase in labour force participation, which shows that the Australian economy is strong enough to pull people to join or reenter the workforce.
While the numbers were mostly strong, there is still some room for improvement. According to MarketWatch, underemployment is still an issue. Additionally, despite the net growth in employment, the economy actually shed 47,400 part-time jobs. Employment in Victoria saw a decrease of 11,300, though that was offset by increases elsewhere.
The business confidence rate also fell two points in February to +9. However, the NAB attributes this to “turbulence in international financial markets in early February,” and notes that the number remains above the average of +6. On a brighter note, the NAB reports that the business conditions index actually increased three points to a record high +21.
Economists debate how much room there is left to grow in Australia’s economy. The issues of underemployment and the fact that the size of the labour force is growing faster than employment point to an economy with plenty of room for growth. Economists suggest that the unemployment rate will need to fall below 5 percent before workers begin to see significant wage gains.