Australiaâ€™s unemployment rate unexpectedly fell in January, despite a plunge in full-time jobs, underscoring the mixed picture of the countryâ€™s labor market. Jobless rate fell to 5.7% from 5.8%; economists forecast 5.8% Employment rose 13,500 from Dec versus forecast 10,000 gain Full-time jobs slumped by 44,800; part-time employment rose 58,300 Participation rate
fell to 64.6% from 64.7%; economi-
sts predicted 64.7%. The Australian dollar bought 77.09 US cents in Sydney, compared with 77.23 cents before report.
Australiaâ€™s labor market is sending mixed signals following lackluster hiring last year, when full-time jobs virtually stagnated as gains were primarily part-time. The unemployment rate held below 6 percent partly due to discouraged job-seekers giving up the hunt, underscoring spare capacity in the labor market. The Reserve Bank of Australia last week cited forward indicators suggesting an improved hiring outlook while predicting the jobless rate was unlikely to fall far because of a high level of under-employment.
Australiaâ€™s economy is divided: on the east coast property prices are booming, spurring housing construction and attracting people from other states, while local governments are pouring cash into infrastructure. In the west and north, where a mining investment boom is unwinding, property prices are falling, businesses are going bust and people are leaving. Indeed, internal migration is main factor containing unemployment in Western Australia and Queensland and stopping it falling too far in Victoria .