Labour force figures released today by the ABS show that the Australian labour market continued to recover strongly in March 2021, with employment increasing by a robust 70,700 over the month, exceeding all market expectations.

There are now a record 13,077,600 Australians in work, with the level of employment now 74,300 (or 0.6 per cent) above its pre-COVID level in March 2020 and 947,100 (or 7.8 per cent) higher than the trough in the labour market recorded in May 2020.

The increase in employment over the month was due, entirely, to a rise in part-time jobs, which increased by 91,500 (or 2.2 per cent) in March, to a record high of 4,203,400. Part-time employment is now 76,800 (or 1.9 per cent) above the level recorded in March 2020.

While full-time employment fell by 20,800 (or 0.2 per cent) over the month, to 8,874,200 in March 2021, the decline this month was not surprising, given the five consecutive monthly increases totalling 359,600 recorded between October 2020 and February 2021.

Women accounted for the vast majority of the rise in employment in March, up by 55,400 (or 0.9 per cent), to a record high of 6,229,600 in March 2021, while male employment also rose, by 15,300 (or 0.2 per cent).

Aggregate hours worked continued to increase in March, up by 38.3 million hours (or 2.2 per cent), and are now 21.8 million hours (or 1.2 per cent) above the level recorded in March 2020.

The level of unemployment in Australia fell by 27,100 (or 3.4 per cent) over the month, to 778,100 in March 2021, but remains 62,100 (or 8.7 per cent) higher than it was a year ago.

The unemployment rate also decreased over the month, by 0.2 percentage points, to 5.6 per cent, but is still above the 5.2 per cent recorded in March 2020.

The stronger labour market conditions that continued into March also encouraged more people to enter the labour market, with the participation rate increasing by 0.2 percentage points over the month, to an historic high of 66.3 per cent in March 2021, above the 65.9 per cent recorded a year ago.

The rise in overall participation was driven, entirely, by women, with the female participation rate increasing by 0.4 percentage points over the month, to a record high of 61.8 per cent in March 2021.

The Government welcomes today’s positive labour force results, but acknowledges the economic and labour market fallout from COVID-19 will continue for some time to come. The Government has provided unprecedented direct economic support to help rebuild the economy and put Australia back on the road to recovery.

This includes record levels of investment in skills and training, new infrastructure projects, tax cuts, unprecedented business investment incentives and new targeted support, such as the $1.2 billion aviation and tourism package.

The Government’s Economic Recovery Plan, described as ‘key’ to saving jobs by the OECD, will continue to create employment opportunities in Australia and will help to secure this country’s economic and labour market future.