Jobs data sign of resilience: Swan
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CANBERRA, Feb 7 AAP
February 07 2013, 5:27PM
Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan says the latest jobs figures have again highlighted the resilience of the Australian economy in the face of uncertain global conditions.
Economists believe the stable jobless rate of 5.4 per cent in January supports the Reserve Bank of Australia's (RBA) decision this week to leave interest rates unchanged.
Economists had expected the unemployment rate to rise to 5.5 per cent.
Australian Bureau of Statistics data also revealed there was a 10,400 seasonally-adjusted rise in the number of people employed, over double the forecasts of economists.
This was the result of a 20,200 jump in the number of part-time workers joining the workforce, which was partly offset by a 9800 drop in full-time employees.
"Our economy in the face of those uncertain conditions globally is resilient, we can see this in the unemployment data out today," Mr Swan told parliament on Thursday.
But shadow treasurer Joe Hockey said Mr Swan made a promise in May 2011 that 500,000 jobs would be created over the next two years.
"Since Wayne Swan made that pledge barely 150,000 jobs have been added across the economy," Mr Hockey said in a statement.
"It is increasingly clear that this will be yet another broken Labor promise."
RBC Capital Market head of strategy Su-Lin Ong said the data did little to change her view that the underbelly of the labour market was soft and consistent with the sub-trend pace of economic activity.
Employment Minister Bill Shorten conceded there was softness in the labour market but said more people were in work than ever before.
"Global economic circumstances are tough ... (but) it isn't gilding the lily to say Australia is doing relatively better," he told reporters in Canberra.
However, Mr Shorten said the figures from his home state of Victoria were "disturbing", showing a jump in its unemployment rate to 6.1 per cent from 5.6 per cent.
He blamed this on a high Australian dollar hurting manufacturing and a lack of state infrastructure investment.
Opposition employment spokesman Eric Abetz said it was disappointing Mr Shorten failed to mention Tasmania, which had the highest level of unemployment in the country.
The island state's jobless rate rose from 7.4 per cent to 7.8 per cent, its second highest rate in the past 12 months.
"Of most concern is that Tasmania's youth unemployment rate is the worst in the country by more than five per cent," Senator Abetz said in a statement.
On Tuesday, at its first board meeting of this year, the RBA decided it was prudent to leave the cash rate at three per cent.
"This (jobs data) should help to vindicate the RBA's decision ... as they allow the economy time to absorb the previous rate cuts and the better news that has flowed from offshore, particularly the pick-up in Chinese growth and commodity prices," HSBC Australia chief economist Paul Bloxham said.
The central bank will release its quarterly statement on monetary policy on Friday.
By Colin Brinsden, AAP Economics Correspondent