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Australia's jobless rate falls to 5.7% as part-time roles surge

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Australia's jobless rate dropped in July as part-time jobs surged amid a national election and census count. The currency rose.

[SYDNEY] Australia's jobless rate dropped in July as part-time jobs surged amid a national election and census count. The currency rose.

Unemployment dropped to 5.7 per cent from 5.8 per cent; economists had predicted 5.8 per cent. Employment rose 26,200 from June; economists had forecast 10,000 gain. Full-time jobs fell by 45,400; part-time employment rose by 71,600. Participation rate, a measure of labour force as a share of the population, held at 64.9 per cent, matching economist estimates The economy is showing resilience against a difficult global backdrop, with industries like construction, tourism and education helping Australia soak up unemployed miners as a resource boom winds down.

Still, a rebounding local dollar - up almost 12 per cent since mid-January - risks the competitiveness of currency-sensitive service industries while China's economic transition remains another source of nervousness.

Meanwhile, temporary roles needed for last month's national election and its extended vote-count probably padded the figures.

"We assume that the prolonged election count-fest temporarily boosted employment in July," Annette Beacher, head of Asia-Pacific research at TD Securities in Singapore, said before the release.

"Many will be volunteers, but many will be on the payroll." Accommodative monetary and fiscal policy settings have assisted with the economy's adjustment from mining, including rate cuts in May and this month, when the central bank reduced the cash rate to 1.5 per cent.

The Australian dollar traded at 76.94 US cents at 11:40 am in Sydney, from 76.59 US cents before the data was released.

In minutes of this month's policy meeting released Tuesday, the central bank said it cut rates to try to spur faster growth in the economy, against a backdrop of very weak inflation.

It also made clear that in the absence of a clear signal on the labour market, it was anticipating unemployment would remain around its current level in coming months.

"There continued to be considerable uncertainty about momentum in the domestic labour market and the extent to which domestic inflationary pressures would rise over the next few years," the central bank said.

BLOOMBERG