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[SYDNEY] Australia's unemployment rate unexpectedly fell in August as fewer people sought work and the economy lost part-time jobs.
Employment fell 3,900 from July; economists forecast a 15,000 gain. The jobless rate dropped to 5.6% from 5.7%; economists forecast 5.7%. Full-time jobs rose by 11,500; part-time employment fell by 15,400. Participation rate, a measure of labour force as a share of population, declined to 64.7% from 64.9%; economists predicted 64.9%.
The surprise weakness is a blow to policy makers who've been making progress in encouraging hiring via record-low rates and subdued wage growth. The central bank has eased policy twice since May as it tries to boost inflation and tame the resurgent local dollar.
The currency is up about 9 per cent since mid-January and hurting service industries that are supposed to replace mining as key growth drivers.
Thursday's jobs data may also have been impacted by the end of temporary positions related to the July election and census.
"While some people employed for the census were not employed in the previous month, most were already employed in another job," the Australian Bureau of Statistics said in the jobs report.
"The employment estimates for August 2016 will, therefore, not reflect a large contribution to employment from the census."
The local dollar traded at 74.64 US cents at 11:38am in Sydney, from 74.76 US cents before the data was released.
In its rate statement this month, the RBA said of the economy: "recent data suggest that overall growth is continuing, despite a very large decline in business investment, helped by growth in other areas of domestic demand and exports. Labour market indicators continue to be somewhat mixed, but suggest continued expansion in employment in the near term."