Jobless rate dips, as part-time workers up

The jobless rate was 5.0 per cent in the final month of 2018, down from 5.1 per cent in November.
The jobless rate was 5.0 per cent in the final month of 2018, down from 5.1 per cent in November.

Australia's unemployment rate fell slightly in December, with the federal government eager to dismiss concern that full-time jobs dipped a little for the second month running.

The jobless rate was 5.0 per cent in the final month of 2018, down from 5.1 per cent in November, as 24,600 more Australians were working part-time.

There were 3000 fewer people with full-time jobs in the month, according to data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Thursday.

That follows a 6400 drop in full-time workers in November, when an increased participation rate unexpectedly moved the unemployment rate up by 0.1 per cent.

But Jobs Minister Kelly O'Dwyer has her eyes on the bigger picture, noting there were more than 162,000 full-time jobs created in 2018.

She's said the latest figures were "incredibly strong" but that the government does not intend to be complacent about the economy.

"We certainly can't be complacent in the face of recent advice and data coming out from global institutions like the IMF. We certainly know from them that we face international headwinds," she told reporters.

Labor employment spokesman Brendan O'Connor said the latest figures are "pretty much steady as you go" and that his party always welcomes any improvement.

But he highlighted the dip in the jobless rate came from part-time jobs.

More people were unemployed than when the Abbott government was elected in 2013, he said.

"Whilst there's been, of course, jobs growth, it's only just kept up with population growth," he told reporters in Melbourne.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the latest figures are reassuring amid "increasingly uncertain times".

"With the addition of 21,600 new jobs over the past month, and underemployment slightly down, trends are heading in the right direction," acting chief executive Jenny Lambert said.

"In an election year, it is even more important that Australian businesses remain confident about the health of the Australian economy and their prospects for growth."

The addition of 21,600 new jobs was above market expectations of an 18,000 boost.

Australian Associated Press