20 May 2022, 10:30

Australia reports 48-year-low jobless rate before election

SYDNEY, May 20, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - Australia posted its lowest jobless rate in 48 years Thursday, a potential pre-election boost to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is fighting to stay in power.

The unemployment rate dipped to 3.85 percent in April, the official statistics body said, delivering a dose of good news two days before federal elections.

It was the lowest unemployment level since 1974 -- when flared trousers were in fashion and US president Richard Nixon resigned over the Watergate scandal.

"More Australians are in work now than ever before," said the ruling conservative Liberal-National Party coalition's employment minister, Stuart Robert.

"Even in the face of global shocks like the war in Europe, Australia's economy has remained resilient," he boasted. "Now is not the time to risk our economy on an opposition that has no plan and makes things up on the run."

Opinion polls show the ruling conservative coalition lagging a little behind the opposition Labor Party in a tightening election race.

But surveys indicate the rising cost of living, not employment, is a priority for voters.

Opposition Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese's economic credentials have been questioned by Morrison, notably since he forgot the unemployment rate when quizzed by reporters more than a month ago.

Albanese has said he supports a rise in the minimum wage in line with inflation, which has shot up to 5.1 percent as prices soar in the shops, at gasoline stations and on the housing market.

Australia's economy created an additional 92,400 full-time jobs in April, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said.

That helped to trim April's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate just slightly below the revised 3.93-percent rate of the previous month.

- 'Staff shortages' -

"Overall, today's data remain consistent with a still-tightening labour market and continued difficulty for firms in finding labour," said National Australia Bank economist Ted Nugent.

"This should see stronger wages growth emerge as the year progresses."

Many employers say they are struggling to find staff in the tight jobs market.

"We're definitely still feeling staff shortages," said Matt Jenkins, human resources manager at Sydney restaurant group Applejack Hospitality.

"I know for chefs, they can have multiple job offers at a time. And even candidates that we're speaking to, they're sitting on offers for weeks while they still canvass the market," he told AFP.

Bruno Goncalves, co-owner of Edes Restaurant and Bar in central Sydney, said he found it particularly hard to recruit experienced staff.

More foreign jobseekers were becoming available, he said, since the re-opening of Australia's international borders, which were shuttered for nearly two years to keep out the Covid-19 virus.

Those foreign candidates were mostly inexperienced, leaving the business with supervisory managers and "fresh, zero-experienced" workers but very few experienced bar and waiting staff.