ABS: Unemployment rate 'remained steady' in December at 3.9%

But businesses warn this could likely go up given recent trends

ABS: Unemployment rate 'remained steady' in December at 3.9%

Australia's unemployment rate stayed at 3.9% in December 2023, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) revealed on Thursday.

David Taylor, ABS head of labour statistics, attributed the figure to employment dropping by 65,000 people and to the small drop in the number of unemployed people (1,000).

Full-time employment also declined by 106,600, while part-time employment increased by 41,400 people, according to ABS data.

"While the December employment fall was large, the number of employed people was still 52,000 higher than September," Taylor said in a media release.

The ABS data also revealed that participation rate decreased to 66.8%, while underemployment rate stayed at 6.5%. The employment to population ratio declined to 64.2%, while the monthly hours worked went down to 1,926 million.

"Both the unemployment and underemployment rates remained relatively low and the participation rate and employment-to-population ratio relatively high, suggesting that the labour market remains tight," Taylor said.

Businesses react to employment numbers

Meanwhile, the Business Council of Australia (BCA) said the 3.9% unemployment rate "masked the significant loss of full-time jobs and the true picture of the economy."

"Australia is becoming less competitive and the consequences of that are already being seen in the latest insolvency figures and with businesses opting to not invest in Australia – and that costs real jobs," BCA chief executive Bran Black said in a statement.

"You can't make anti-business policy and expect there to be no impact on Australian jobs."

Stephen Walters, BCA chief economist, added that the current statistics are suggesting "weaker conditions in the labour market."

"So now is not the time to impose new workplace rules and regulations that will make things worse," Walter said. "Given recent trends, it is likely the unemployment rate will have a four in front of it in coming months."

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