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May 27, 2017

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Australia jobless rate may have peaked: experts

SYDNEY--Australia's unemployment rate remained steady at 5.8 percent in April, data showed Thursday, with economists suggesting the peak could have passed.

Analysts had been expecting a small rise after the rate unexpectedly fell below 6.0 percent in March, but the Australian Bureau of Statistics said there was no change.

The figures showed that the number of people employed rose by 14,200 to 11.573 million over the month with all of the increase in full-time positions. Part-time jobs were unchanged.

The participation rate — which measures the proportion of adults in work or looking for it — eased slightly from 64.8 to 64.7 percent.

The Australian dollar jumped to 93.50 U.S. cents after the data was released, up from 93.29 U.S. cents shortly beforehand. It was at 93.71 U.S. cents later Thursday.

Australia is undergoing a bumpy economic transition with its decade-long Asia-led mining investment boom reaching its peak and the ailing manufacturing sector in dire straits.

This has seen the jobless rate steadily rise over the past year until the dip in March, suggesting it may have peaked.

"With forward employment indicators starting to turn up there is a good chance we have now seen the worst for the jobs market and that the 6.0-percent unemployment rate recorded in January and February was the peak," said AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver.

RBC Capital Markets senior economist Su-Lin Ong said Thursday's data had given the market a nice surprise.

"Employment generation is really stepping up pace here," she said.

"It will prompt further discussion about whether the unemployment rate has peaked for this cycle. That will get more attention given the Reserve Bank of Australia's rhetoric on the labor market — its discussion has turned a little bit more positive."

On Tuesday, central bank governor Glenn Stevens noted the improvement in employment indicators, although he cautioned: "It will probably be some time yet before unemployment declines consistently."

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