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Australia - Unemployment rate to creep up again

10 February 2014

The unemployment rate for January is forecast to rise to 5.9%, when official jobs figures are released on Thursday, an AAP survey of 12 economists shows. Jobs growth in January is expected to have bounced after a weak result in December but economic growth is still staying at a below average pace.

Official labour force figures, to be released on Thursday, are expected to show that the number of people with jobs rose by 15,000 in January, after a surprise fall of 22,600 in December. January's unemployment rate is forecast to rise to 5.9 per cent, from 5.8 per cent the month before.

ANZ head of Australian economics Justin Fabo said the pace of jobs growth is still not enough to bring the unemployment rate down. "Overall, most labour market indicators still suggest that underlying employment growth remains soft," he said. "The expected rise in employment in January would still be shy of the roughly 20,000 per month necessary to maintain a stable employment-to-population ratio…It's also worth noting that the past two January reports have shown strong rises in employment which may be associated with a change in seasonal patterns that the seasonally adjustment processes are slow to capture."

JP Morgan Australia chief economist Stephen Walters said there were many indications pointing to employment growth still being weak. "Job advertisements and vacancies are still moving backwards, and the levels of the NAB business survey employment intentions index remain in line with the poor average level that has held through the Reserve Bank of Australia's easing cycle," he said. "For this reason, we see little scope for relief from the upward trend in the unemployment rate in this week's labour force survey. However, we are wary of how depressed the employment estimates were through most of last year. It is unusual to see such a prolonged period of underperformance in the monthly employment series." The participation rate - the percentage of the working-age population either in work or looking for a job - is expected to stay steady at 64.6% in January.

This survey comes at the same time that Toyota Motor Corporation said it will stop making cars in the South Pacific nation. Toyota, which started building cars in Australia in 1963, cited high manufacturing costs, an elevated local dollar and low economies of scale for the decision to shut its factories, according to an e-mailed statement. The company is the latest carmaker to announce it is ending Australian production after Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. said last year they were shutting down output.

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