Job demand consolidating after bumper year

Colin Brinsden, AAP Economics Correspondent
(Australian Associated Press)


Economists remain confident of a solid growth result when the national accounts are released in early June, despite new construction figures falling below expectations.

An expanding economy should be a further positive for the employment outlook after clocking up over 400,000 new jobs in 2017.

However, other data released on Wednesday suggests demand for workers has come off the boil.

The number of job advertisements posted on the internet declined 0.5 per cent in April, the first drop after 17 consecutive months of rises and ending the longest run of gains in seven years.

Job ads were still nine per cent higher than a year earlier.

Five of the eight occupational groups monitored by the Department of Jobs and Small Business declined in April, led by a 1.3 per cent fall in sales workers.

Commonwealth Securities chief economist Craig James said the past year was a year of job creation while the period ahead looks like being one of consolidation.

“That was to be expected – employment couldn’t sustainably grow by over 400,000 a year,” Mr James said.

At this stage, economists are predicting the economy grew by around 0.8 per cent in the first three months of 2018, over double the pace of the December quarter’s subdued 0.4 per cent rise.

Such growth would lift the annual rate to around 2.7 per cent, a level more in line with the economy’s long-term trend and aided by a recovery in exports after a weak performance in the final three months of 2017.

This outcome would also roughly match the federal government’s growth forecast for this financial year, before accelerating to three per cent in 2018/19.

Construction work grew by just 0.2 per cent in the March quarter following two quarters of sharp swings that were the result of two LNG platforms being built.

Public construction work remained the key driving force, rising 2.7 per cent in the quarter while private construction declined 0.5 per cent.

Commonwealth Bank economist Belinda Allen noted this month’s federal budget included an additional $24.5 billion in infrastructure plans.

“This will continue to support construction work and the economy, both in a growth and productivity sense,” Ms Allen said.

Treasury analysis suggests that for every $1 spent on public investment, a $4 GDP increase is generated over the life of the asset.


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