Sat, 12 Mar 2005

From: AFP

Unemployment in Australia steady

SYDNEY: Australia's unemployment rate remained steady at a 28- year low of 5.1 percent for the third consecutive month in February, increasing the likelihood of further interest rate rises, economists said on Thursday.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said the number of people in work climbed 20,000 to a seasonally adjusted 9.9 million, with full-time employment up 37,900 and part-time employment down 17,900.

The participation rate for the month was unchanged at 64.1 percent.

The figures, which exceeded market expectations, come amid concerns that a strong jobs market is creating a shortage of skilled workers in Australia that threatens to drive up wages, boost inflation and put upward pressure on rates.

Treasurer Peter Costello said the figures showed the underlying strength of the Australian economy, despite recent data showing growth almost at a standstill and a plunge in consumer confidence.

"There's still some oomph there because you're seeing it in relation to the creation of jobs, 20,000 in the month of February," he said. -- AFP