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Jobs boom beats expectations but weakness incoming

Hiring by Australian employers has proved stronger than government officials expected, despite economic activity tapering.

Based on snippets released ahead of Tuesday's May budget, Treasury has upgraded expectations for employment growth in the year to June to reflect ongoing resilience in the labour market.

In those 12 months, the government expects employment to grow 2.25 per cent, an upgrade on the 1.5 per cent improvement pencilled in at the mid-year budget update in December.

Employment is also tipped to keep growing into the future but more sedately, with 150,000 extra jobs created between now and mid-2025.

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Australia's labour market has remained in remarkably good shape despite an aggressive round of interest rate hikes aimed at slowing the economy and taming inflation.

Classifieds job section
Australia's labour market has remained in good shape. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

In March, the jobless rate ticked higher to 3.8 per cent, from 3.7 per cent in February, coming in slightly lower than the 3.9 per cent consensus forecast.

And while 6600 jobs disappeared in March, that followed a huge 117,600 employment boost in February.

Based on the previewed economic forecasts, due to be released in full in the budget on Tuesday, Treasury still expects unemployment to tick up to 4.5 per cent by the June quarter of 2025

This forecast is unchanged from the mid-year budget update in December.

After running hot for much of the COVID-19 pandemic recovery, the jobs market is expected to weaken in line with a slowing economy.

A fall in the number of hours worked, sinking job vacancies and a minor lift in the underemployment rate all suggest this softening is already under way.

A gas burner on a bench top cooker (file image)
The government says gas will be an important energy source for decades to come. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

Federal budget messaging was in full swing on Thursday, with money to flow to a Melbourne toll road project and a new gas policy unveiled.

Just days out from the budget, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed the Commonwealth would provide $3.25 billion for Victoria's blown-out North East Link road project.

A long-term commitment to gas as an energy source has also been announced, which the Resources Minister Madeleine King said would support the Future Made in Australia industry policy - a cornerstone of its upcoming budget.

Low carbon industries and those serving the national interest are in line for direct support from the federal government under the wide-ranging policy.

Ms King said gas was "crucial" for the industry policy as it "supports manufacturing, food processing and refining of critical minerals which will help Australia and the world to lower emissions".

The gas strategy, which has already drawn sharp rebuke from climate and environmental groups, shores up a role for gas as "an important source of energy through to 2050 and beyond".