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Australia’s unemployment rate drops suddenly, but concerns remain

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SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s unemployment rate suddenly fell from a 22-year high in August to 6.8% after employment rose above all expectations, although growth was driven mainly by part-time work, official data showed. Thursday.

Employment rose 111,000 in August, following an equally impressive earnings in July, according to figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

A Reuters poll had forecast an unemployment rate of 7.7% compared to 7.5% in August and predicted a drop of 50,000 jobs.

In the state hit by the Victoria virus, employment fell by 42,000 or 1.3% while the countries ’second most populous state entered a draconian blockade in early August, but this was offset by employment growth elsewhere.

Economists said the result of Thursday’s data is that the unemployment rate is now unlikely to rise to 10% as forecast by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) and the Treasury.

Indeed, with restrictions in Victoria set to be released by the end of the year, employment should continue to grow, said Capital Economics analyst Marcel Thieliant.

Despite better-than-expected data, there was still a large excess capacity in the labor market with part-time employment increasing to 74,800.

Worryingly, the under-employment rate – or the percentage of people already at work but looking for overtime – remained at 11.2%, 2.7 percentage points higher than in August 2019.

Falling unemployment rates underestimate the impact of the pandemic, given the declining participation rate and rising under-utilization rates, said Sarah Hunter, chief economist at BIS Oxford Economics.

Both of these shifts will need to be changed during the recovery period. And that excess capacity in the job market will weigh heavily on wage increases at least next year, Hunter added.

Edited by Jacqueline Wong

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