Unemployment rate drops to 6.6 per cent

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Australia’s unemployment rate has fallen to 6.6 per cent after the economy gained 50,000 new jobs in December.

The figures – an improvement on 6.8 per cent in November – were broadly in line with market expectations and coincided with surging retail sales and rising property prices.

Full-time employment increased by 35,700 to 8.8 million people, while part-time employment lifted by 14,300 to 4.1 million people.

The ABS said 90 per cent of the jobs lost between March and May have now been recovered, though the recovery in full-time work has lagged that in part-time.

“While part-time employment was higher than March, full-time employment was 1.3 per cent below March,” said Bjorn Jarvis, head of labour statistics at the ABS.

“The recovery in hours worked has been slower than the recovery in employment.”

The figures provide further evidence that the economy was gathering momentum at the end of last year, prior to fresh coronavirus outbreaks in Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

But the latest consumer sentiment reading from Westpac and the Melbourne Institute – a loose indicator of future spending – points to renewed jitters within the community, with confidence falling by 4.5 per cent in January.

Westpac chief economist Bill Evans said a pull back was to be expected given the fresh outbreak in Sydney.

But he noted the fall in confidence was far smaller than that seen after Victoria’s second wave (-15 per cent).

More to come

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