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Australia's jobless rate ticks up to 6.2 per cent

[SYDNEY] Australia's unemployment rate edged up to 6.2 per cent in April, official figures showed Thursday, in a widely expected increase reflecting the nation's economic wobbles as it moves away from its dependence on mining.

Some 2,900 positions were lost last month, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics data. Full-time roles fell by 21,900 while 19,000 part-time jobs were added.

The seasonally adjusted April data matched analysts' expectations, although economists had forecast 4,000 jobs to be added to the economy.

The Australian dollar slipped a quarter of a US cent to 79.25 US cents after the data release before rising to 79.70 US cents.

"It was largely as expected," RBC Capital Markets economist Michael Turner told AFP.

"Unemployment's still gyrating around 6.1 (per cent) to 6.3... unemployment growth is still reasonably modest and barely enough to keep up with the population growth." The participation rate, which measures the proportion of adults in work or looking for work, remained at 64.8 per cent on unrounded estimates.

The rise in the jobless rate from 6.1 per cent in March came two days after the Reserve Bank of Australia slashed the cash rate by 25 basis points to a new record-low of 2.0 per cent to stimulate economic growth.

The economy has struggled to fill the gap left by the end of an unprecedented boom in mining investment, which has helped it avoid a recession for more than two decades.

Slowing growth in China, Australia's largest trading partner, as well as recent plunges in commodity prices have weighed on the resources-driven economy.

The rocky transition away from mining-led expansion and robust growth in the labour force has seen the unemployment rate slowly increase over the past year, last peaking at 6.3 per cent in January - a more than 11-year high.

"We are seeing pretty strong jobs growth in areas related to residential construction and non-mining construction as well, but we do need to see stronger jobs growth in areas like agriculture, manufacturing and the retail sector," Commonwealth Bank of Australia economist Diana Mousina told AFP.

"At the same time, the jobs growth in the services areas like healthcare and education are quite strong, so I think that's pretty positive but they are not creating enough jobs to offset the decline in mining jobs.

"So we just need to see additional jobs growth rather than just tracking at average." Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens said after the rate cut Tuesday that "available information suggests... stronger growth in employment", but added that the economy was "likely to be operating with a degree of spare capacity for some time yet".

The central bank is set to release its quarterly monetary policy statement Friday, with some analysts expecting the RBA to slightly lower its gross domestic product forecast and continue to flag below-trend growth.

In its February quarterly report, the bank projected GDP to expand 2.25-3.25 per cent in 2015.

Australia's economy expanded slower than forecast in the last three months of 2014, with quarterly growth at 0.5 per cent for year-on-year growth of 2.5 per cent.

AFP