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Australia's jobless rate at decade high of 6%

Australia's unemployment rate returned to a decade high of 6.0 per cent in June, data showed Thursday, as the economy shed full-time jobs amid "challenging" conditions and as more people looked for work.

SYDNEY: Australia's unemployment rate returned to a decade high of 6.0 per cent in June, data showed Thursday, as the economy shed full-time jobs amid "challenging" conditions and as more people looked for work.

The jobless rate pushed higher even as the economy added a seasonally adjusted 15,900 positions to take the number of people employed to 11.578 million, Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showed.

The rise in the total number of positions came through part-time roles, which jumped by 19,700 last month. Full-time jobs fell by 3,800.

The May unemployment rate was revised upwards from 5.8 per cent to 5.9 per cent.

Economists were tipping the June jobless rate to reach 5.9 per cent and for 12,000 positions to be created.

The Australian dollar spiked briefly following the data release but slipped back to 94.18 US cents.

"Australian labour market conditions remain challenging," ANZ senior economist Justin Fabo said.

"We saw a strong risk of an above-market rise in employment in June reflecting some statistical payback after the fall in employment in May."

"The 'payback', however, was less than we expected so it was, at best, a soft outcome."
Fabo said one encouraging figure in the data was a rise in average monthly hours worked, which increased by 15.1 million hours to 1.629 billion.

Analysts said the participation rate, which measures the proportion of adults in work or looking for it, was behind the higher-than-expected increase.

The jobless rate had been falling slightly over the past few months after rising to 6.0 per cent in February, the highest since July 2003, supported by an easing in the participation rate.

But the participation rate edged up by 0.1 percentage points in June to 64.7 per cent, meaning more people were in the labour market looking for jobs.

Economists, the Reserve Bank and the Treasury had previously been expecting the unemployment rate to rise above 6.0 per cent in 2014 as Australia exits an unprecedented boom in the mining sector.

The Reserve Bank has kept interest rates on hold at a record low of 2.5 per cent since August last year in a bid to encourage growth in other sectors of the economy as mining investment falls off. 

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