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Australia jobless rate unexpectedly rises to 5.9%; Australian dollar drops

Thursday, March 16, 2017 - 09:24

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Australian unemployment unexpectedly climbed in February as the economy shed jobs, underscoring the central bank's decision to keep interest rates at a record low.

[SYDNEY] Australian unemployment unexpectedly climbed in February as the economy shed jobs, underscoring the central bank's decision to keep interest rates at a record low.

Key Points

- Employment fell 6,400 from January where economists forecast 16,000 gain

- Jobless rate rose to 5.9 per cent from 5.7per cent; economists forecast 5.7 per cent

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Market voices on:

- Full-time jobs rose by 27,100, and part-time employment dropped 33,500

- Participation rate held at 64.6per cent, as economists predicted

- Aussie dollar fell to 76.90 US cents at 11:58am in Sydney, compared with 77.14 cents before the report.

Big Picture

Australia's labour market is showing mixed signals following lacklustre hiring last year, when full-time jobs virtually stagnated as gains were primarily part-time; unemployment only held below 6 per cent due to discouraged job-seekers giving up the hunt. The central bank cites forward indicators suggesting the labour market will strengthen and growth is forecast to pick up to an annual 3 per cent later this year.

Australia's economy is divided: on the east coast property prices are booming, spurring housing construction and attracting people from other states, while local governments are investing in infrastructure.

In the west and north where a mining investment boom is unwinding, property prices are falling, businesses are going bust and people are leaving. Internal migration is the main factor containing unemployment in Western Australia and Queensland and preventing it falling too far in Victoria and New South Wales.

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