Jobless rate holds steady at 5.4 per cent

The jobless rate has held steady, justifying the central bank's decision this week to leave interest rates unchanged.

The unemployment rate was at 5.4 per cent in January, defying economists' forecasts of a rise to 5.5 per cent in the month.

Some 10,400 people joined the workforce in January, more than double the number economists were expecting, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported on Thursday.

The increase was the result of a 20,200 jump in part-time workers joining the workforce, which was partly offset by a 9800 drop in full-time employees.

At its first board meeting of this year on Tuesday, the Reserve Bank of Australia decided it was prudent to leave the cash rate at three per cent.

But it also said based on current assessments of inflation there was scope to ease monetary policy if necessary in the future.

Despite a steady national rate, unemployment jumped to 6.1 per cent in Victoria from 5.6 per cent in December.

It also rose to 6.1 per cent from 5.8 per cent in South Australia and to 7.8 per cent from 7.4 per cent in Tasmania.

The rate was unchanged at 5.1 per cent in the nation's most populous state, NSW.

It fell to 4.0 per cent from 4.3 per cent in Western Australia and to 5.5 per cent from 6.1 per cent in Queensland.

Among the territories, unemployment rose to 4.5 per cent from 4.4 per cent in the ACT and was steady at 3.9 per cent in the Northern Territory.

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