Australian Unemployment Falls

Australia’s jobless rat unexpectedly fell to 5.7 per cent in September, after employers hired more than 35,000 full-time workers.

The number of people employed jumped 40,600 from August, the biggest gain in almost two years, cutting the jobless rate to 5.7 percent from 5.8 percent, the statistics bureau said in Sydney.

Governor Glenn Stevens’ unexpectedly raised interest rates this week, the first Group of 20 central banker to do so. He said economic growth in Australia, which skirted the global recession, will accelerate, driven by A$22 billion ($20 billion) in government infrastructure spending and demand for minerals from China, the nation’s second-largest export market.

The number of full-time jobs gained 35,400 in September and part-time employment increased 5,200, today’s report showed.

Since the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in September 2008, Australia’s unemployment rate has risen to 5.7 percent from 4.3 percent. By contrast, the U.S. jobless rate jumped to 9.8 percent from 6.2 percent in the same period.

Woolworths Ltd., Australia’s biggest retailer, said on Aug. 25 it will hire thousands” of extra workers as it expands into hardware stores. Retailer JB Hi-Fi Ltd. and Germany-based supermarket chain Aldi are also hiring as they expand. Specsavers Optical Group Ltd. today opened a new head office and manufacturing facility in Melbourne and said it will create 1,000 jobs in its Australian retail network.

The government is also stoking demand for workers as it spends A$22 billion on roads, ports, schools and hospitals. An index published Oct. 7 by the Australian Industry Group showed the nation’s building industry expanded in September for the first time in 18 months.

The nation’s single biggest investment project, the A$43 billion Gorgon natural-gas venture in Western Australia, will create as many as 10,000 jobs when construction starts early next year, Chevron Corp. said on Sept. 14. Chevron and its partners say they will sell A$300 billion of gas to China, India and Japan in the project’s first 20 years.

Australia’s economy has outperformed most other developed nations, expanding 1 percent in the first half of the year, and is forecast by the International Monetary Fund to grow 2 percent in 2010. By contrast, the U.S. economy will expand 1.5 percent next year, Japan by 1.7 percent and the euro region by just 0.3 percent, the fund said last week.

Growth in Australia has been stoked by A$20 billion in government cash handouts to consumers and the central bank’s decision to slash borrowing costs between September 2008 and April to the lowest level in half a century.

The participation rate, which measures the labor force as a percentage of the population aged over 15, rose to 65.2 percent in September from 65.1 percent, today’s report showed.

Australian Unemployment Falls, Bloomberg
10/8/2009 9:37:27 AM