Economists see another jobless rate drop

If economists are right, Anthony Albanese will have to learn a new unemployment rate when the latest labour force figures are released.

The opposition leader stumbled on the first day of the election campaign trail when he couldn’t recall what the current jobless rate, despite the government boasting about it seemingly every day over the past month.

The unemployment rate fell to a 14-year low of four per cent in February, but economists are now predicting it could be even lower when March figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics are released on Thursday.

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The consensus among economists points to a jobless rate of 3.9 per cent for March, a level not seen since 1974 and when the jobs data was conducted on a quarterly basis.

However, forecasts range from 3.8 per cent to 4.1 per cent.

The jobs recovery has been the stand-out feature of Australia’s rebound from recession, after hitting a 22-year high of 7.4 per cent during the steep economic downturn in mid-2020.

Both the Reserve Bank of Australia and Treasury are forecasting an unemployment rate of 3.75 per cent later this year.

Economists also expect the number of people employed rose by 30,000 in March, extending the rebound after the COVID-19 Omicron variant outbreak at the turn of the year, although at a slightly slower pace of growth due to the floods along southeast Australia.

Again forecasts range from a 60,000 jobs rise to a 25,000 fall.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week pledged 1.3 million jobs will be created within the next five years, building on the gains in past years.

But it comes at a time when there are already acute skills shortages, partly reflecting the absence of skilled migrants due to closed international borders trying to contain the pandemic.

“We have delivered 375,000 jobs, more jobs than we had before the pandemic, and that is why Australians know that when we say that we can deliver 1.3 million jobs we have the economic plan to support that,” Mr Morrison told reporters on Wednesday.

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Peter Fray

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