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Australia Adds More Jobs Than Forecast In March, Unemployment Rate Steady


Employers in Australia hired more staff than forecast by economists in March while the unemployment rate remained unchanged, suggesting that the country's economic conditions remained healthy, strongly supported by its once-in-a-century mining boom.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said Thursday that employment rose by 44,000 from a month earlier to 11.5 million. This was nearly seven times the economists' expectations of an increase of 6,500. Moreover, the March gain reversed a fall in employment of 15,400 in February.

Full-time employment increased 0.2 percent month-on-month to 8.08 million and part-time employment increased 0.8 percent to 3.41 million.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5.2 percent compared with expectations of an increase to 5.3 percent. The rate have been staying almost steady since October last year.

The number of unemployed persons decreased by 3,200 or 0.5 percent month-on-month to 629,100. The labor force participation rate increased 0.2 percent from February to 65.4 percent. The statistical office also reported that the aggregate monthly hours worked increased by 9.5 million hours to 1,624.2 million hours during the period.

Though the latest data points to sound labor market conditions in Australia, various surveys suggest that April could see a reversal of last month's gains.

The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations said Wednesday that its indicator of employment declined for the fourth consecutive month in April. However, it admitted that it is still too early to confirm that a slowing in employment growth is in prospect because the indicator has fallen for fewer than six months.

The Westpac-Melbourne Institute survey of unemployment expectations published on Thursday revealed that households are more negative on the jobs market and unemployment expectations are now 30.2 percent higher than what was expected a year earlier.

Confidence among Australian households weakened in April as they remained concerned about the state of their own financial conditions and as they were disappointed by the Reserve Bank not delivering a much needed rate cut, another survey by Westpac and Melbourne Institute showed Wednesday.

During this month's meeting, Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Glenn Stevens hinted at another monetary policy easing in May after assessing the inflation outcome for the March quarter. Rates have been kept on at each of the past three meetings after a quarter-point reduction in the December meeting.

The central bank expects the pace of output growth to be somewhat lower than estimated earlier. The economy expanded by a weaker-than-expected 0.4 percent during the fourth quarter. The Central Bank forecasts a growth of 3.5 percent in the year ending June 2012.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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