Colin Brinsden, AAP Economics and Business Correspondent
(Australian Associated Press)
Payroll jobs are now slightly higher than they were a year ago as the economy continues its recovery from last year’s deep recession.
At the same time, consumer confidence has soared to a 16-month high.
But both economic measures will be put to the test in coming weeks as a result of the JobKeeper wage subsidy coming to an end and the Greater Brisbane COVID 19 lockdown.
As well, Wednesday will see the end of the $150 per fortnight coronavirus JobSeeker dole payment subsidy.
Economists will also be looking at a spread of housing-related indicators over the next couple of days to gauge whether the country’s financial regulators may be any closer to tightening lending rules.
Australian Bureau of Statistics payroll jobs figures rose 0.2 per cent in the fortnight to March 13, building on the 0.9 per cent increase in the previous two weeks.
ABS head of labour statistics Bjorn Jarvis said most state and territory payroll jobs had either reached or passed levels of a year ago by mid-March.
The only exceptions were Tasmania and Victoria, remaining 1.1 per cent and 0.7 per cent lower, respectively, for the year.
National Australia Bank economist Taylor Nugent said the report, and other indicators suggest, another strong employment result when the full March labour force report is released next month, although he warns payrolls are subject to substantial revisions.
Tuesday’s data also pre-dates the end of JobKeeper on March 28.
“We will have to wait until April to start to gauge the impact,” he said.
Treasury estimates up to 150,000 people could be left without a job as a result of the scheme ending.
There is uncertainty about whether the labour market has the momentum to absorb these potential job losses, or whether the steady drop in unemployment will grind to an abrupt halt over the next few months.
Still, other new data suggests Australians have got over their initial anxiety about the end of JobKeeper, a program that successfully provided support during last year’s recession.
The ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index – a pointer to future household spending – jumped 1.7 per cent in the past week to its highest level since October 2019.
This followed two weeks of consecutive declines as the deadline for the end of JobKeeper approached.
ANZ head of Australian economics David Plank said receding rainfall and floodwaters along Australia’s east coast appears to have lifted the mood of the nation.
However, the survey was taken at the weekend and prior to the announcement of a snap three-day lockdown in Greater Brisbane.
Previous lockdowns across the country have taken their toll on business and consumer confidence, potentially undermining the economic outlook in terms of investment, hiring and spending.
“Sentiment in Queensland may be tested by the emergence of a COVID-19 cluster in Brisbane,” Mr Plank said.
“The rise in overall confidence to almost its long-run average is encouraging and points to the end of JobKeeper being successfully navigated overall, if not without some difficult individual circumstances.”