Australian unemployment steady at 5.2%

Australia's unemployment rate held steady at 5.2 percent in March, data showed Thursday, beating expectations, while 44,000 jobs were created -- almost eight times the number forecast.

The news sent the Australian dollar high against the greenback on receding expectations of an interest rate hike.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) said the seasonally adjusted jobless rate was static, as 15,800 full-time jobs were filled and 28,200 part-time jobs taken up.

It added that the number of people now in employment stood at 11,491,200.

Economists had predicted the jobless rate to come it at 5.3 percent with just 6,000 extra jobs created.

The Australian dollar jumped to 103.60 US cents after the announcement from 103.06 cents before as the figures was seen diminishing the chances of a rate cut to stimulate the economy.

Interest rates were kept at 4.25 percent for a third consecutive month last week, after two rounds of 25-basis-point cuts in November and December. The bank did not hold a meeting in January.

Canberra expects the jobless rate to hit 5.5 percent by mid-2012, and is due to update its forecasts in the May 8 budget.

Australia dodged recession during the global financial crisis, insulated by its mining exports to China and other Asian nations, and recorded growth of 0.4 percent in the final quarter of 2011 despite global debt turmoil.

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