Australia's jobless rate has made a slight improvement to 5.1 per cent, according to December employment figures.
Australia's jobless rate has made a slight improvement to 5.1 per cent, according to December employment figures. Darryn Smith

Bushfires expected to impact Australia's jobless rate

The number of people working full-time fell in December, but Australia's jobless rate still improved by a tenth of a percentage point to 5.1 per cent, according to employment figures.

Full-time employment fell by 300 to 8,834,700 people, but part-time employment increased by 29,200 to 4,146,900 people, according to seasonally adjusted estimates from the Australian Bureau of Statistics released on Wednesday.

The underemployment rate remained steady at 8.3 per cent, as did the participation rate at 66 per cent.

BIS Oxford Economics chief economist Sarah Hunter said the slight improvement in the data would reduce the pressure on the Reserve Bank board to cut the cash rate when it meets on February 4.

"We still expect them to provide further stimulus, but this could be delayed until March," she said.

"Delaying would also allow the board to more fully assess the short and long run impact of the bushfires."

Many businesses, including BHP, have been affected by the bushfires which have ravaged the country and claimed 29 lives.

NAB markets economist Kaixin Owyong also believed the chance of a cash rate cut had fallen.

"With unemployment improving for two months in a row, there is now greater uncertainty over the probability of a February rate cut," she said.

However she still expected the Reserve Bank to cut the cash rate twice in the first half of this year.

The biggest increases in employment for December were in NSW (20,600 people) and VIC (10,300 people).

Western Australia recorded the biggest decline (5,300 people).

The result comes after consumer confidence fell in January for the fifth consecutive month, according to the Westpac-Melbourne Institute consumer sentiment index.


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