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Jobs growth still patchy

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Judging by the state of the jobs market, the economy’s so-called rebalancing is looking decidedly unbalanced.

Between February and May, the number of people with a job rose by 14,200.

The quarterly data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Thursday, showed a slightly smaller rise than the higher-profile but less detailed figures last Thursday, which showed a three-monthly gain of 28,300.

Either way, it was woefully inadequate.

The working-age population grew by 88,000 over the same three months.

A sharp rise in the unemployment rate was avoided only because of an increased number of would-be workers dropping out of the labour market.

There are some patches of strength, including a range of business services employing one out 10 workers – rental, hiring, real estate, professional, and scientific and technical, to use the bureau’s classification.

In these industries, employment rose by 76,000 or 6.5 per cent.

There was a further rise in employment of 85,000 or 2.6 per cent in industries employing just over a quarter of the workforce – wholesale and retail trade, accommodation and food, and administrative, support and other services.

But in other industries, employing over three fifths of the workforce, there was either no significant increase in employment or, more often, a sizeable fall.

As a result, those underperforming sectors suffered a net loss of employment totalling 147,000 between February and March.

Not long ago, it was fashionable for economists to refer to Australia’s “patchwork” economy.

These figures suggest the term went out of fashion prematurely.