Guy Debelle: Employment and wages

Speech by Mr Guy Debelle, Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, at the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) National Conference 2019, Canberra, 26 November 2019.

Central bank speech  | 
26 November 2019

Over much of the past three years, employment has grown at a healthy annual pace of 2½ per cent. This has been faster than we had expected, particularly so, given economic growth was slower than we had expected. Employment growth has also been faster than the working-age population has been growing. As a result, the share of the Australian population employed is around its all-time high, which is a good outcome. Normally, we would have expected this strong employment growth to lead to a decline in the unemployment rate. But the unemployment rate has turned out to be very close to what we had expected and has moved sideways around 5¼ per cent for some time now.

So what is going on here? Strong employment growth but little change in the unemployment rate means that the strength in labour demand has been met by strong growth in labour supply. This increase in labour supply has come from more people joining the labour force and from some of those with jobs putting off leaving the labour force. These trends have been particularly pronounced for females aged between 25 and 54 and older workers of both sexes.