Australian unemployment up to 5.2%

Australia's unemployment rate rose to 5.2 percent in June, data showed Thursday, with the economy shedding 27,000 jobs as global uncertainty and the strong Australian dollar weighed on employers.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said the seasonally-adjusted jobless rate increased from 5.1 percent in May as full-time employment dropped sharply and the number of people seeking work also fell.

The headline rate was in line with expectations but the number of jobs lost was worse than predicted, with analysts forecasting 10,000.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the numbers remained robust compared with other advanced economies.

"By the standards of the world we continue to have a low unemployment rate," she told reporters.

"When I sit at that G20 table and talk to my counterparts from around the world... they would literally do anything to have the same economic story and statistics as Australia."

AMP chief economist Shane Oliver said full-time employment had been "stagnant" since January and anecdotal evidence from the market pointed to "softness ahead" for the economy.

The Australian dollar fell from US$1.0240 to $1.0211 on the data, which was seen as increasing the case for an interest rate cut.

Australia's central bank held the official interest rate steady at 3.50 percent this month following two rounds of cuts -- 50 basis points in May and 25 points in June -- in a bid to stimulate the economy.

Though robust mining exports to Asia have driven strong Australian growth, the associated lift to its dollar has hit local industries hard, with manufacturing, tourism and education suffering.

Retailers are also feeling the pinch, with confectionery company Darrell Lea going into administration this week, putting 700 jobs at risk, and department store Myer sacking 100 of its 13,000 workers Thursday.

The data reinforced what the government has described as a "patchwork economy", with key mining states Western Australia and Queensland seeing a drop in unemployment from 3.8 to 3.5 percent and 5.7 to 5.3 percent respectively.

Unemployment crept up in all other states, particularly Tasmania (6.5 to 7.4 percent) and South Australia (5.2 to 6.4 percent).

The government has forecast unemployment to hit 5.5 percent in the financial year to June 30, 2013.


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