The labour market was broadly stable in December. Unadjusted, the number of people out of work rose some 10,144 or 6.8 percent to 159,372 and lifted the jobless rate by 0.2 percentage points to 3.5 percent. However, this was only in line with the typical seasonal pattern at year-end. Seasonally adjusted, unemployment fell 206 or 0.1 percent to 148,872 but left the adjusted rate unchanged at 3.3 percent. The results were in line with market expectations.
Vacancies followed a similar path although the underlying trend was rather more optimistic. Hence, while unadjusted they were fell nearly 11 percent on the month, compared with a year ago they rose fully 20 percent. Seasonally adjusted the monthly change was 2.6 percent.
The December jobless data are consistent with other recent indicators pointing to a potentially significant acceleration in real GDP growth last quarter.
The unemployment rate measures the number of unemployed as a percentage of the labour force. Both seasonally adjusted and unadjusted monthly data are provided.
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.