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Employment numbers up, but quality down

January marked Australia’s fourth consecutive month of increasing full-time employment, but the rate of jobs growth in 2016 is less than half the 20-year average, ABS data has found.

Total-trend employment rose by 11,700 in January, which the ABS said reflected increases of 6,500 in full-time employment and 5,100 in part-time.

"We are still seeing strong growth in part-time employment in January 2017, and in recent months, increasing growth in full-time employment,” said ABS general manager of macroeconomic statistics division Bruce Hockman.

The recent growth in full-time employment has not been enough to offset the eight consecutive months of decreases that preceded it however, and Mr Hockman noted that the number of people currently in full-time employment is lower than a year ago.

“There are now around 129,800 more people working part-time than there were a year ago, and around 40,100 fewer people working full-time,” he said.

Total employment growth for the year was 0.8 per cent, less than half of the country’s 20-year employment growth average of 1.8 per cent.

AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver said the deterioration in the quality of jobs growth was “disappointing” given the improvement in full-time jobs growth seen in the previous three months.

“Over the last year, total employment rose by 103,300 but 56,100 full time jobs were lost,” he said.

“The low quality of jobs growth is explaining why underemployment remains high, with labour underutilisation above 14 per cent, and points to continued weak wages growth.”

Mr Oliver said the ABS data is unlikely to affect the outlook for the Australian interest rate, but noted it had implications for inflation.

“Solid jobs growth and unemployment remaining well down from its recent highs supports the argument for the RBA to keep interest rates on hold, but the ongoing weakness in full time jobs supports the case for another rate cut, to the extent it points to continued weakness in wages growth and hence in inflation,” he said.

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