Full time employment bounced nearly 65,000 positions in February, more than reversing the fall in January. Part time positions, however, shrank by 47,000, although this followed a big rise in January. The extended run of monthly jobs gains means that growth in total employment over the year to February rose to a very healthy 3.5%oya, which is the fastest rate of expansion since 2005.
The rise in the jobless rate is despite the recent stellar gains in employment. It runs in parallel with the lift in the participation rate, which has returned to the highest level since this data was first collected in 1978. Rising participation generally is a sign of labour market health, as people usually resume their job search only if there is a reasonable expectation of success. The jobless rate rose in all states and territories in February, except for New South Wales and the Northern Territory.
The missing piece of the labour market jigsaw is faster growth in wages, which continues to track along close to record lows, barely matching the rate of inflation. There are signs of improvement, however, with skills shortages emerging and the pool of unemployed workers shrinking. The nature of the labour market has changed in recent years, but the orthodox rules of supply and demand have not been suspended, so faster growth in wages probably lies ahead.