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Australian Jobs Grow Slightly Below Expectations in August, Unemployment Up

By Ambar Warrick Australia added a slightly lower-than-expected number of jobs in August, while unemployment also rose as languid wage growth weighed on an otherwise robust jobs market.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that the economy added 33,500 jobs in August, just below expectations for 35,000. The unemployment rate also unexpectedly rose to 3.5% from 3.4%.

Overall participation in the job market rose to 66.6% of the population, indicating that an abundance of jobs was bound to keep unemployment low in the near-term. Despite rising in August, unemployment is still around 48-year lows.

The participation rate was also well above COVID-era levels, indicating that the jobs sector has now moved past headwinds from the virus. Australia’s economy rebounded sharply after the country withdrew most COVID-related restrictions this year.

But a lack of growth in wages appeared to be the biggest headwind faced by the jobs market. Wages grew at an annual rate of 2.6% in July, well below consumer price inflation of 6.1%. The latter is also trending around 20-year highs.

Strength in Australia’s jobs market has been a key driver of economic growth this year, by encouraging robust household spending. Optimism over the jobs market also saw Australian consumer sentiment improve slightly in early-September.

But rising interest rates and elevated inflation levels kept consumer sentiment pinned near pandemic-era lows.

The Australian dollar rose slightly after Thursday’s reading. But fears of rising U.S. interest rates and a potential economic slowdown in China meant the currency stuck to a tight trading range seen in recent months.

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