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May 18, 2022, 10:02 p.m. EDT

Australia's Unemployment Rate Hits Lowest Level Since 1974

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By James Glynn

SYDNEY--Australia's unemployment rate came in at its lowest level since 1974 in April, but employment growth was soft at just 4,000 over the month, well below what was expected by economists.

The unemployment rate in April was 3.9%, unchanged from March, which was revised down from 4.0%, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said Thursday.

Economists had expected 30,000 new jobs over the month and an unemployment rate of 3.9%.

The unemployment rate for males fell by 0.2 percentage points to 4.0%, its lowest level since October 2008. For females, it remained at 3.7% for a second month, which is the lowest it has been since May 1974, the ABS said.

The participation rate also decreased in April, down by 0.1 percentage points to 66.3%, but remained close to the historical highs recorded in February and March.

The fall in the unemployment rate puts Australia a step closer to full employment, one of the key aims of policy makers.

Still, coupled with news of weaker-than-expected first-quarter wages growth on Wednesday, the soft job creation data should rule out a bigger-than-normal rise in the official cash rate when the board of the Reserve Bank of Australia meets in early June.

The RBA began tightening policy settings this month citing a surge in inflation pressures over the first quarter for the move. RBA Gov. Philip Lowe has made it clear that further hikes are coming, with economists speculating that some of the increases could be close to double that of the usual 25-basis-point increment.

The employment to population ratio remained at 63.8% in April for a third month, the highest it has been and 1.4 percentage points higher than at the start of the pandemic.

Seasonally adjusted hours worked increased 1.3%, largely reflecting a bounce back from the March falls that reflected the impact of floods in eastern Australia.

Write to James Glynn at james.glynn@wsj.com; @JamesGlynnWSJ

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