Australia added close to 71,000 jobs between February and March 2021 according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
Hours worked returned to pre-pandemic levels indicating an increase in full-time employment.
ABS head of labour statistics Bjorn Jarvis said the data showed continued recovery in the labour market into March 2021, with hours worked higher than this time last year, for the first time during the COVID period.
“Employment and hours worked in March 2021 were both higher than March 2020, up by 0.6 per cent and 1.2 per cent,” Jarvis said.
The data shows that last month 62.6 per cent of people over 15 were employed, which is higher than March 2020 (62.4 per cent).
The proportion of women employed is the highest it’s ever been (58.5 per cent), half a percentage point higher than in March 2020, while the proportion of men employed remained slightly lower than before the pandemic (66.8 per cent, compared with 67.0 per cent in March 2020).
The number beat expectations for a 35,000 to 45,000 increase in jobs for the month.
This follows a bumper month in February, where the nation saw full-time employment increase by 89,000 people, of which 69,000 were women.
The figure also comes after record job ads were posted in March, with massive increases in both the hospitality and retail sectors as those businesses recover from the pandemic-induced lockdowns.
However, there is still a wariness to read too much into the positive number as next month’s figure will reflect the removal of the Government’s JobKeeper package.
The March data was collected during the first half of the month, prior to the end of JobKeeper on 28 March.
“The April Labour Force release, along with weekly payroll jobs data, will show the state of the labour market after the end of JobKeeper,” Jarvis said.
The Reserve Bank of Australia estimated that JobKeeper saved at least 700,000 jobs and said “overall employment losses would have been twice as large over the first half of 2020 without JobKeeper.”
Now that the scheme is over, economists will be keeping a close eye on the employment figures being released next month.