It may not be the result economists had been predicting, but a steady unemployment rate of four per cent still gave Treasurer Josh Frydenberg plenty to brag about.
Economists had expected the jobless rate to ease to 3.9 per cent in March figures released on Thursday, which would have been the lowest since the early 1970s, but at four per cent it was still a 14-year low.
Taken to two decimal places, economists point out that the rate was actually 3.95 per cent, the lowest since 1974.
"Today, we see confirmation yet again of Australia's world leading economic recovery," Mr Frydenberg told reporters in Melbourne.
"It is not luck, it is not an accident, it is the result of a carefully considered plan."
The unemployment rate continued to fall faster for women than for men.
The female rate droped to 3.7 per cent in March from 3.8 per cent previously, the lowest since May 1974. For men it was steady at 4.2 per cent, the second lowest level since November 2008.
The jobs recovery has been the stand-out feature of Australia's rebound from recession, when the unemployment rate hit a 22-year high of 7.4 per cent during the downturn in mid-2020.
Both the Reserve Bank of Australia and Treasury are forecasting an unemployment rate of 3.75 per cent later this year.
But deputy Labor leader Richard Marles said while the government is surrounding itself in self-congratulation, Australians are finding it difficult to make ends meet due to low wage growth.
"Low wages is not bad luck. It is bad policy," Mr Marles told reporters in Adelaide.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese on the election campaign trail in Cessnock NSW also noted there were half a million Australians who had to work three jobs or more.
"That is an increase of 50 per cent since this government came to office," he told reporters before the latest figures were released.
Businesses too are facing the most severe workforce shortages in 48 years, alongside the highest job vacancy rates since records began, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Andrew McKellar says.
"Without a comprehensive strategy to address workforce shortages, businesses who are already stretched with an ultra-tight labour market will be pushed to breaking point," he told AAP.
"The next federal government must pull all the levers it can to address chronic skills shortages."
Earlier in the week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged 1.3 million jobs would be created within the next five years, building on gains in past years.
"My priorities are jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs and jobs," Mr Morrison told reporters on the campaign trail in Launceston.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics said 17,900 people joined the workforce in the month, almost half the number economists had been expecting.
Even so, a further tightening of the labour market adds pressure on the Reserve Bank of Australia to raise the cash rate from its record low of 0.1 per cent - a level set in November 2020 during the heat of COVID-19 pandemic.
"We expect that the RBA will want to see wages data before commencing the tightening cycle, and we continue to look for the first hike in June," Jo Masters, chief economist at investment consultants Barrenjoey said.
"Arguably, the May meeting is 'live'."
The consumer price index for the March quarter is due for release on April 27, while the wage price index for the same period is due on May 18.
The RBA's next board meeting is on May 3.
Australian Associated Press
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