Australia’s unemployment rate eases to 6.3% in Feb

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SYDNEY: Australia’s unemployment rate eased to 6.3 percent in February as fewer people looked for jobs, data showed Thursday, but economists warned the labour market remained soft, maintaining expectations of another interest rate cut.

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The unemployment rate fell from 6.4 percent in January, a more-than 12-year high, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics — in line with analysts’ forecasts.

Some 15,600 jobs were added to the economy, with full-time positions increasing by 10,300 and part-time roles up 5,300. The proportion of adults in work or looking for work, measured by the participation rate, fell from 64.7 percent to 64.6 percent.

The Australian dollar was broadly unchanged, trading about 76.05 US cents after the data was released.

Despite the improved figures, the jobless rate remains among the highest since late 2002, reflecting an economy enduring a rocky exit from an unprecedented mining investment boom that helped the nation avoid recession for two decades.

Employment Minister Eric Abetz said the elevated jobless rate meant the government would continue to push for economic reform.

“We have put in place a whole lot of policies that are slowly working their way through the economy,” he said.

ANZ Bank’s co-head of Australian economics Riki Polygenis said Thursday’s figures did not change her view that the unemployment rate was in an upward trend.

“Below-trend growth outcomes — both past and expected — are consistent with a further gradual rise in the unemployment rate from here, with new hiring insufficient to keep pace with retrenchments in industries such as mining and manufacturing,” she said.

Total aggregate hours worked rose 13.0 million hours to 1,620.8 million, which analysts said was encouraging.

AFP

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