Australia's Jobless Rate Falls to Lowest Since 1974

Australia's unemployment rate fell to the lowest since 1974 as employers hired extra workers for a record 15th month, increasing pressure on the central bank to raise borrowing costs as soon as March., Bloomberg 2/13/2008 6:17:42 PM

Total employment rose 26,800 in January, the Bureau of Statistics said today in Sydney.

The hiring boom is worsening a labor shortage that has pushed up annual core inflation to 3.8 percent, the fastest pace in almost two decades. Mining companies such as Rio Tinto Group have been hiring to meet demand for resources from China, helping to extend the A$1 trillion ($900 billion) economy's 16 years of expansion.

The Australian dollar rose to 90.14 U.S. cents at 12:29 p.m. in Sydney from 89.78 cents immediately before the report. The yield on the benchmark 10-year government bond rose 1 basis point to 6.30 percent. A basis point is 0.01 percentage point.

The number of full-time positions declined 7,800 in January. Part-time jobs rose 34,600. About half of Australia's 21 million people are employed.

Signs that the jobs boom is stoking inflation was a key reason Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Glenn Stevens raised the benchmark interest rate by a quarter point to 7 percent last week, adding to similar moves in November and August.

The lowest unemployment rate in more than three decades will help sustain an expansion in the nation's economy, which grew 4.3 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier, the fastest pace in three years. Growth figures for the three months through December will be released on March 5.