Unemployment rate climbs to 4.1% in January

Australia seeing 'significant slowdown of employment,' businesses say

Unemployment rate climbs to 4.1% in January

Australia's unemployment rate saw a slight uptick to 4.1% in January as the number of unemployed people increased by 22,000, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

"This was the first time in two years, since January 2022, that the unemployment rate had been above four per cent," said Bjorn Jarvis, ABS head of labour statistics, in a statement.

Jarvis, however, noted that while there were more people without work in January, there were also more unemployed people who are expecting to start a job in the next four weeks.

"This may be an indication of a changing seasonal dynamic within the labour market, around when people start working after the summer holiday period," Jarvis said.

"In January 2022, 2023, and 2024, around five per cent of people who were not employed were attached to a job, compared with around four per cent in the January surveys prior to the COVID-19 pandemic."

Changing labour dynamic

This changing dynamic also likely extends to the declining number of hours worked as of late, according to the ABS.

Seasonally adjusted monthly hours worked fell by 2.5% in January 2024, extending the general slowing recorded since mid-2023.

"Since October 2023, the annual growth rate in hours worked has slowed considerably, down to 0.7% in January 2024, and well below the annual employment growth of 2.6%," Jarvis said.

But he pointed out that January is also a popular month for people to take annual leave, which explains why a higher proportion of employed people have no hours worked during the month.

"We have seen a similar pattern in recent January surveys, which may point to further changes in labour market dynamics around the summer holiday period," Jarvis added.

'Slowdown of employment'

Meanwhile, the Business Council of Australia (BCA) lamented how employment rose by just 500 jobs in January, while unemployment rose higher than expected.

"We are seeing a significant slowdown of employment across Australia with the latest figures and unless we get serious about addressing business conditions, the economy will continue to slow and that's bad for workers and bad for businesses," said BCA chief executive Bran Black in a statement.

According to Black, the latest tranche of workplace reforms will only make it harder to do business in Australia and ultimately reduce jobs.

"This adds to an already heavy regulatory burden that businesses are carrying while trying to invest, hire and produce goods and services," the chief executive said. "We urgently need to see some productivity boosting policies which support successful businesses and help workers see real wage increases."

The Australian government recently passed the two Closing Loopholes Bills, which addresses wage theft, right to disconnect, casual employment, among others.

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