The labour market deteriorated but by less than expected in February. An unadjusted 2,227 fall in the number of people out of work was enough to reduce the unemployment rate from 3.8 percent to 3.7 percent, its first decline since June last year. However, the latest rate was still 0.2 percentage points higher than a year ago and the monthly fall was essentially seasonal. Hence, adjusted for such factors joblessness rose 557 (0.4 percent) to 148,897 leaving the adjusted rate unchanged at 3.4 percent.
Even so, vacancies were up 0.6 percent on the month and now show a yearly increase of 3.5 percent. This suggests that businesses may be becoming a little more positive about the economic outlook.
The unemployment rate measures the number of unemployed as a percentage of the labor force. The monthly report provides both raw and seasonally adjusted data; the latter are the more important for identifying short-term trends.
Like the employment data, unemployment data help to gauge the current state as well as the future direction of the economy. Employment data are categorized by sectors. This sector data can go a long way in helping investors determine in which economic sectors they intend to invest.
By tracking the jobs data, investors can sense the degree of tightness in the job market. If employment is tight it is a good bet that interest rates will rise and bond and stock prices will fall. In contrast, when job growth is slow or negative, then interest rates are likely to decline - boosting up bond and stock prices in the process.
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