Australia Jobless Rate Drops to 5.8 Percent


Australia’s unemployment rate dropped for the second-straight month in November, data showed Thursday, signaling an improvement in the domestic economy even as concern grows about a slowdown in the nation’s largest trading partner China.

The jobless rate was a seasonally adjusted 5.8 percent in November, down from 5.9 percent the previous month and 6.2 percent in September, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said.

Some 71,400 jobs were added to the economy in November, about 41,600 full-time positions and around 29,700 part-time.

The latest figure of 5.8 percent — the lowest reading since April 2014 — surprised the market, with the Australian dollar jumping almost one U.S. cent to 73.32 U.S. cents after the data release.

Economists had expected the unemployment data to worsen slightly to 6.0 percent after October’s improved figure.

Analysts cautioned the data was volatile, noting that some of the job gains were due to a rotation in the groups of people being sampled for the monthly reading, but added that the figures were pointing to an overall strengthening of the labor market.

“Even allowing for (the rotation of those being sampled), there was some improvement in hiring versus market expectations of a modest correction,” Barclays chief economist for Australia Kieran Davies told AFP.

“So I think that the headline number is overblown but there’s still an underlying improvement in the jobs market, and you can see it over a whole bunch of official and private indicators.”

The economy has struggled over the past year amid a fall in mining investment following an unprecedented boom that has helped Australia avoid a recession for 24 years.

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has slashed interest rates by 275 basis points since November 2011 to encourage non-mining sectors of the economy to fill the gap left by the decline in resources investment, but the transition has been patchy, with some businesses still reluctant to spend.

Uncertainty about the resilience of the resources-dependent economy has also been fueled by a slowdown in China, the world’s largest commodities consumer.

“The RBA would read (the new data) as a sign that there is some improvement in the economy underway, but in terms of a risk of another rate cut, I still think there’s uncertainty about the outlook for China,” added Davies.

The central bank is due to meet next in February following the release of the December jobless figures and quarterly inflation data in January.


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