The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released its latest labour figures, and according to Westpac’s Justin Smirk, the rise in males leaving the workforce had “dragged” male unemployment down to 5.4 per cent in May from 5.7 per cent.
Simultaneously, female unemployment fell from 5.5 per cent to 5.4 per cent.
Mr Smirk noted that female participation rates have gained 0.84 per cent in the last year, while male participation rates have gained 0.10 per cent. While overall male participation (70.68 per cent) is still higher than female participation (60.44 per cent), Mr Smirk said the trends are generally moving in opposite directions.
In the last year, the female labour force has grown by more than the male labour force.
“We are … now seeing disillusioned males leave the labour force,” Mr Smirk said.
“If this trend continues through 2018, it is possible that the unemployment rate will fall even if there are job losses in male employment sectors (such as construction, transport and while collar).”
He also observed that female employment is outpacing male employment in both growth rates and absolute terms, and this reflects cyclical and structural factors. However, part-time employment is a large part of female employment gains.
Male full-time employment was on par with female full-time employment in the 12 months to May, but female part-time employment grew 96,600 while male employment grew 28,400.
“It is this outperformance in female part-time employment, when you also see falling male participation, which hints to us that there are men who would rather leave the workforce than take a part-time employment,” Mr Smirk said.
“The fact they are able to leave the workforce so easily suggests we may be on the cusp of another wave of retiring male Baby Boomers that are choosing to leave the labour force than take a part-time position, possibly different sector to where they have previously worked.”