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Australian jobs beat again with 13,500 jobs added, but unemployment ticks up

DRINA THURSTON / AFP / Getty Images

For the second consecutive month, Australian job growth has beaten expectations.

However, it wasn’t enough to prevent a lift in the national unemployment rate.

According to the ABS, employment rose by 13,500 in December in seasonally adjusted terms, topping expectations for an increase of 10,000. Employment has now grown for three consecutive months, having fallen unexpectedly in August and September.

The majority of the increase in December came from full time employment which rose by 9,300, outpacing a 4,200 gain in part time employment.

By state and territory, the largest increase was registered in Victoria with employment growing by 13,600 persons, offsetting a decline of 13,700 in Queensland. Both female and male employment increased, rising by 7,400 and 6,100 respectively.

Over the year, full time employment decreased by 34,000 workers, a far cry from the 125,500 increase seen in part-time employment over the same period. Combined, total employment rose by 91,500.

In percentage terms, total employment increased by 0.8% from a year earlier, up from 0.7% in November, with a 3.4% lift in part time employment offsetting a 0.4% drop among full time workers.

There are now 11.986 million in employment across the country, with 8.177 million employed full time and 3.809 million in part time employment.

Despite the lift in employment, the national unemployment rate rose to 5.8% — above the 5.7% level expected — as the participation rate edged up to 64.7% from 64.6% in November.

Nationally, the unemployment rate now sits at the highest level since January 2016.

Across the country, unemployment increased in New South Wales and Queensland but fell in Western Australia and South Australia.

Source: ABS

As a result of the lift in labour force participation, the number of unemployed workers increased by 14,700 to 741,100.

The total size of Australia’s labour force — including those employed and unemployed persons actively looking for work — rose by 28,200 to 12.727 million.

The ABS said that unemployed persons looking for full-time work increased 15,000 to 528,900 while those seeking part time employment decreased by 300 to 212,200.

Mirroring the split between full and part time employment growth seen in December, monthly hours worked increased by 0.4% to 1,670.4 million hours.

From a year earlier, total hours worked increased by just 0.7%, driven almost entirely by a 4.4% lift in part time hours worked.

However, the majority of the increase in December came from full time hours worked.

Despite the uptick in unemployment, the December jobs report is another solid outcome, fitting with the lift in job ads and vacancies seen over the past year.

Employment increased modestly, with most of it coming courtesy of a lift in full time worker numbers, while total hours worked continued to edge higher.

And while unemployment lifted to an 11-month high, it was courtesy of a lift in the number of persons seeking work, rather than job losses.

So while employment growth is far slower than what was seen in 2015, it suggests that while labour market conditions aren’t great, they’re not exactly terrible either.

Financial markets reflect this view with the Australian dollar marginally lower on the day while the ASX 200 is trading higher, clinging on to gains seen earlier in the session.

Australian bond futures are lower, indicating that yields have increased, although this is reflective of the move in global bond yields seen overnight.

The 3-year Australian government bond future is trading down 6 ticks at 97.94, having traded at 97.92 prior to the data.

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