Australia's unemployment rate rises to 5 per cent

AUSTRALIA'S unemployment rate rose 0.1 percentage points in March to a seasonally adjusted 5.0 per cent, but analysts say an uptick in full-time work should be enough to stay the Reserve Bank's hand on rate cuts, for now.

Full-time employment rose by 48,300 during the month, although Thursday's data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed a 22,600 fall in the number of people employed part-time.

Total unemployment increased by 17,100 to 680,000 persons.

BIS Oxford Economics' Sarah Hunter said the latest figures, which were in line with consensus expectations, highlighted a "fundamentally healthy" jobs market that would ease pressure on the Reserve Bank to cut the cash rate from an already-record low of 1.5 per cent.

"The minutes from the board's April meeting confirmed that they are squarely focused on the health of the labour market as the key measure of activity in the economy," Ms Hunter said.

"The board also noted that they need to see inflation making steady progress towards the two to three per cent - the reading for core inflation in next week's inflation data will be crucial in informing their view on this."

NAB's markets research team forecasts a first rate cut for 2019 as early as July, but it said there remained potential for an earlier move.

"(However), action would require more evidence of a weaker labour market, such as a large rise in unemployment or a material deterioration in the leading indicators of employment, and/or a more marked undershooting of the inflation target," the bank said.

The seasonally-adjusted underemployment rate for March increased 0.1 points to 8.2 per cent, with 1.1 million people underemployed.

The under-utilisation rate increased 0.2 points to 13.2 per cent, while the participation rate rose 0.1 points to a near-record high of 65.7 per cent.

Queensland reported the greatest increase in overall employment, up 10,400 people, followed by Victoria with a 10,000-person increase.

New South Wales fell the furthest, down 2,600 people, followed by Tasmania, down 1,800 people.

Youth unemployment - people aged between 15 and 24 - rose from 11.1 per cent to 11.7 per cent, or 259,100 people in total.

The Australian dollar jumped to a day-high 71.93 US cents after the data's release and was 71.82 US cents at 1308 AEST.



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