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Job market tightens as unemployment falls

The days of low wage growth rates and subdued consumer spending may be numbered, as the latest jobs figures put unemployment at its lowest level in 4.5 years.

Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) put trend unemployment at 5.5 per cent in September – the lowest rate seen since March 2013.

“The trend unemployment rate had been hovering in the range of 5.6 to 5.8 per cent for almost two years, but has now dropped to a four-year low of 5.5 per cent,” said ABS chief economist Bruce Hockman.

The figure for August was also revised down to 5.5 per cent.

Another positive indicator of a healthy economy was that the fall in unemployment had more to do with job creation than an increased participation rate (which has seen people delay their retirement).

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Trend estimates point to a 23,800 increase in the number of employed Australians, two-thirds of which was people finding full-time work. The number of monthly hours worked also edged up by 0.2 per cent.

By comparison, there was only a tiny increase in the participation rate – less than 0.1 point.

“Full-time employment has now increased by around 271,000 persons since September 2016, and makes up the majority of the 335,000 person net increase in employment over the period,” Mr Hockman said.

While Queensland and Tasmania saw the strongest employment growth (up 4.1 per cent and 3.9 per cent respectively), a strong 2.9 per cent increase in Western Australia suggested that economic fortunes of the mining state may be turning a corner.

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