BCEC Monthly Labour Market Update – May 2018

AuthorsAlan Duncan, Rebecca Cassells, Yashar Tarverdi
PublishedJune 2018
PublisherBankwest Curtin Economics Centre

Welcome to the May 2018 edition of the BCEC Monthly Labour Market Update.

Produced monthly, this economic commentary explores the latest labour force data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), providing expert insights and analysis around key labour market indicators.

We’ve developed a new online Data Insights platform, where you can explore current and historical labour market data including changes to part-time and full-time employment, and track the unemployment rate across the nation from the past four decades.

Key findings from May 2018 data include:

WA economy lifts but labour market still lagging

While the WA economy continues to lift on a number of key economic indicators, the WA labour market remains on shaky ground. Our most recent Quarterly Economic Commentary has shown that while the state is on a more positive growth trajectory than in the past with output rising modestly, but the bellwether construction sector remains on shaky ground and this is reflected in the state’s labour market. Over the last year, full-time employment has shrunk, unemployment has risen by 0.7ppts, and part-time work is dominating employment growth in the West. Labour participation is on the rise however, signalling that there is an increased optimism in job offerings. But as Yashar Tarverdi points out the jobs market may well be struggling to deliver on this increased participation.

Women continue to dominate Australian labour market growth

Women have continued to dominate employment growth in 2018, with female labour force participation growing at 9 times the rate of men’s and full-time employment growth more than double the rate across most states and territories. As shown in our recent report on the Future of Work, strong growth in female-dominated sectors, primarily health and education is one of the primary drivers behind these patterns, with the number of carers and aides increasing by around 170,000 workers over the last ten years and health professionals increasing by more 150,000 – the vast majority women. Labour force underutilisation (unemployment and underemployment) still remains problematic and while wages in the female-dominated sectors have also seen the strongest growth in recent times, many of the jobs within these sectors are low paying.

WA’s jobs market struggles to keep up with an increase in labour participation

In May 2018, WA recorded the highest unemployment rate across all states and territories, at 6.4% (trend). In the year since May 2017, the number of people unemployed in WA has gone up by more than 12,000 persons, with a total of 91,000 West Australians now seeking employment. The general trend in the unemployment rate remains the same since April 2018, yet the size of the changes are smaller – a 0.1 ppt increase in the unemployment rate and 1,100 more unemployed people. However, when taking a longer view, the total number of employed persons in WA has increased by a modest 1.5% since May 2017, mainly due to growth in part-time employment. And while the labour force participation rate in WA has increased by around 1% over the same period, the increase in the unemployment rate over this time reveals that the jobs market is struggling to keep up.