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Australian labour market – recovery plods on

The latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics – Labour Force, Australia, December 2020 – released today (January 17, 2021), shows that the labour market is still improving but the pace of recovery has slowed considerably.Employment increased by 0.4 per cent (50,000) in the month, which normally is a reasonable result but is nearly half the growth that was recorded in November 2020. Unemployment fell by 30,100 and the unemployment rate fell by 0.2 points even though the participation rate rose by 0.1 points. It is always a good sign when there is both employment and labour force growth with the former stronger than the latter. Underemployment also fell by 0.8 points and the broad labour underutilisation rate (sum of unemployment and underemployment) fell by 0.8 points. The main uncertainty now is that the recovery is slowing and the current (extensive) government support is due to end in the first-quarter of 2021. Given the labour market is still quite a margin from where it was in March 2020, the idea that the government would withdraw its fiscal support is not a compelling option. Overall, the recovery is still too slow and more government support by way of large-scale job creation.

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