Continued strong demand for skilled workers backs economists’ predictions that the latest jobs figures will show the unemployment rate below four per cent for the first time in nearly 50 years.
At the same time, the cut in fuel excise announced in last month’s federal budget as part of a cost-of-living package is feeding through to bowsers across the country with motorists now mostly enjoying a sub-$2 per litre petrol price.
Preliminary National Skills Commission figures released on Monday show skilled job advertisements on the internet rose by a further 3.7 per cent in March to 282,400, the highest level since July 2008, prior to the global financial crisis..
Over the year, jobs ads were 24.1 per cent higher, while they were a staggering 67.8 per cent above pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels.
Recruitment activity increased across all states and territories, with Victoria and the ACT both recording their highest level since this data series began in January 2006.
“The result bodes well for the March labour force survey when released on Thursday … with the national unemployment rate potentially falling to 3.9 per cent, the lowest level since September 1974,” Commonwealth Securities senior economist Ryan Felsman said.
The consensus among economists points to a jobless rate of 3.9 per cent for March, down from four per cent in February, although forecasts range from 3.8 per cent to 4.1 per cent.
Both Treasury and Reserve Bank of Australia had not expected a sub-four per cent jobless rate until later in the year.
“We’ve got more people in work today, some 375,000 more people … than before the pandemic hit,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison boasted on Monday, the first day of the six-week election campaign.
In contrast, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese was unable to say what the unemployment rate was.
“I think it’s 5.4 – sorry. I’m not sure what it is,” Mr Albanese said when asked about the figure.
There was further good news for the prime minister, as he runs on a campaign ticket of strong economic management, with the Australian Institute of Petroleum weekly petrol price report showing sharp falls across the country.
The national weekly average for petrol prices fell by a record 19.1 cents to 174.3 cents a litre, extending the 13.3 cents drop in the previous week.
Only regional Northern Territory recorded a weekly average price above $2 a litre.
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb explained last week that it will take some time for petrol stations with lower turnover to use up existing stocks of petrol and diesel, and restock with fuel at the reduced wholesale price that takes account of the excise cut.
The government halved fuel excise for six months to 22 cents a litre as part of an $8.6 billion cost of living package in the budget.
“Those fuel prices we know have been forced up principally because what we’ve seen with the war in Ukraine and that is why we knew we had to deliver that cost of living relief,” Mr Morrison said.
“So the fuel price drop delivers real relief now.”
Colin Brinsden, AAP Economics and Business Correspondent
(Australian Associated Press)