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Australian employment rises more than expected in Feb

By Ambar Warrick’s job market grew more than expected in February, data showed on Thursday, while unemployment fell back to near 50-year lows as a higher-than-usual number of people returned to the workforce from switching roles or a break.

The number of employed people in the country increased by 64,600 in February to 13.8 million, beating expectations for an increase of 48,500 people, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showed.

This pushed the participation rate up to 66.6%, while the unemployment rate fell by 0.3 points to 5.8%, coming close to its lowest level in nearly 50 years.

The surge in employment comes after the job market contracted for two consecutive months, amid an increased number of people changing jobs, or taking extended breaks.

“This reflected a larger than usual number of people waiting to start a new job, the majority of whom returned to or commenced their jobs in February,” Bjorn Jarvis, ABS head of labor statistics said in a note.

Jarvis also said that there were no “major disruptions” in the country, such as the pandemic or natural disasters, that prevented people from working.

February’s reading shows that the jobs market is showing no signs of slowing, which is likely to put upward pressure on inflation, and attract more interest rate hikes by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).

The Australian dollar rose 0.4% after the reading, given that strength in the labor market also gives the RBA more economic headroom to raise rates.

The jobs market remains a sole bright spot in Australia’s economy, which is otherwise facing increased headwinds from high inflation and rising interest rates. The economy barely expanded in the fourth quarter, and is expected to see languid growth this year.

Wage growth also remains laggard in the country.

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