Jobless rate down for sixth straight month but overall employment fell

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has jumped on the latest labour force figures that show the unemployment rate has fallen for a sixth consecutive month to 5.5 per cent.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics revised up the jobless rate for March to 5.7 per cent from 5.6 per cent.

“Unemployment has fallen to its lowest level in seven years, and we have seen youth unemployment fall to its lowest level in 12 years,” Mr Frydenberg told reporters in Hobart on Thursday.

He said last week’s budget was aimed at locking in the recovery and creating more jobs.

However, the ABS figures show that overall employment fell by 30,600 in the month, largely as result in a sharp drop in part-time workers.

Economists had expected a 20,000 increase.

The number of part-time workers fell by 64,400 in April and was only partly offset by a 33,800 rise in full-time staff.

It was the first jobs report since the JobKeeper wage subsidy ended in March.

However, the ABS said the end of JobKeeper did not have a discernible impact on employment between March and April.

“We have not seen large changes in the indicators that would suggest a clear JobKeeper impact,” ABS head of labour statistics Bjorn Jarvis said.

“Some of the 31,000 fall in employment may relate to the end of JobKeeper, but it could also reflect usual month-to-month variation in the labour market and some larger than usual seasonal changes similar to those we saw earlier in the year.”

Mr Frydenberg said the figures coming after the end of JobKeeper “underline the strength of Australia’s economic recovery”.

In a speech this week, Treasury secretary Steven Kennedy was more optimistic about what impact the end of JobKeeper might have on employment, having previously estimated up to 150,000 jobs could be lost.

Dr Kennedy said the early indications are that while there have been job losses, many workers appear to have already found employment thanks to the strong labour market.

With reporting by Caroline Riches

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