07/02/2013 - 09:38

WA leads nation with 4% jobless rate

07/02/2013 - 09:38

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WA leads nation with 4% jobless rate

A steady national unemployment rate is a sign conditions in the Australian economy may be starting to improve.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said today the national unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.4 per cent in January, with total employment up 10,400.

The market forecast was for the unemployment rate to rise to 5.5 per cent in the month.

Western Australia's unemployment rate fell to 4.0 per cent in January, down from 4.3 per cent in December.

HSBC Australia chief economist Paul Bloxham said figures showed the labour market was more resilient than many believed.

"This certainly suggests that the labour market might be a bit tighter than many commentators have been touting and have been concerned about," he said.

"We remain of the view that policy setting and global conditions are conducive for a pick up in local growth, so the steady jobs market is consistent with that view."

Macquarie senior economist Brian Redican said the figures showed that employment growth remained sluggish over the past few months.

The central bank kept the cash rate at three per cent at its February board meeting this week, but he said there would be a rate cut soon.

"The general sluggishness of these labour market data are consistent with a rate cut.

"Because unemployment is only rising slowly though, it hasn't given the RBA any urgency to cut the rate, so by itself there won't be the trigger.

"In an environment where the economy is losing a major driver from mining investment and replacement drivers for growth are pretty thin on the ground, these data are consistent with the RBA continuing to trim rates."

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