Modest job recovery after floods

Payroll jobs rose slightly in the first weeks of March, only partially recovering from the earlier impact of flooding along Australia’s east coast.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said payrolls rose 0.2% in the fortnight to March 12, after falling 0.8% in the second half of February.

ABS labor statistics manager Bjorn Jarvis said the results coincided with adverse weather and flooding in New South Wales and Queensland in late February, the continued influence of the variant COVID- 19 Omicron and the easing of pandemic restrictions across the country.

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“Given the disruption to business operations due to weather conditions and Omicron infections, the increase in salaried employment at the start of 2022 continued to be weaker than in 2020 and 2021, particularly in the month last,” Mr. Jarvis said.

The data provides a guide to next week’s full labor force data for March.

Some economists expect next Thursday’s figures to show the unemployment rate falling below 4% and to a level not seen since 1974.

The Reserve Bank of Australia and the Treasury both forecast the unemployment rate to fall to 3.75% later this year, after falling to a 14-year low of 4% in February.

A faster drop in unemployment will add to speculation that the RBA could raise the cash rate as early as June.

The ABS also reported a sharp contraction in Australia’s trade surplus in March after a 12% rise in imports. Exports barely changed from the previous month.

The trade balance for goods and services posted a surplus of $7.5 billion in March, compared to a downwardly revised value of $11.8 billion in February.

Economists had expected a surplus of $12.1 billion, just short of the record high of $13 billion set in July last year.

Meanwhile, growth in Australia’s service sector has slowed, with price pressures and staff shortages taking their toll.

The Australian Industry Group’s services performance index fell 3.8 points to 56.2 in March, although it still held above the 50-point mark, which separates expansion of contraction.

“Australia’s services sector continued its positive run in March, although the pace of growth slowed in the face of mounting input price pressures, difficulties in finding staff and new wage pressures,” it said. said Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox.

“The sharp increase in new orders reported in March will see the capacity of many businesses stretched over the coming months, while the availability of staff and the supply of inputs are expected to remain constrained.”