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Aug. 13, 2020, 12:13 a.m. EDT

Australia's July job creation limits damage

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By James Glynn

Job creation across Australia jumped sharply in July, as the economy regained momentum amid signs that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is easing somewhat.

The economy created 114,700 jobs over the month, limiting an expected rise in the unemployment rate to 7.5% in July compared with 7.4% in June, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said Thursday.

Hours worked increased 1.3% in July. Part-time employment rose by 71,200, beating the rise in full-time employment of 43,500.

Employment has recovered by 343,000 people and hours worked has also recovered 5.5% since May, the ABS said..

The participation rate increased 0.6 percentage points in July to 64.7%

Still, employment remained more than half-a-million people lower than in March, while hours worked were down 5.5% in the same period.

The improvement in the job market in July comes a day after data showing consumer sentiment collapsed in August as Victoria was forced back into lockdown and New South Wales reported worsening virus hot spots.

The Westpac-Melbourne Institute Index of consumer sentiment fell to 79.5 in August from 87.9 in July, close to the worst result since the start of the pandemic that has devastated large parts of the economy, especially services like tourism and education.

The slowdown has crunched wage growth, and one-third of Australians are now receiving some form of government stimulus payment.

The still-weak economic environment has prompted economists to call for more fiscal stimulus from the government and argue that the Reserve Bank of Australia consider further policy action, despite already having official interest rates near zero.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has conceded that the actual level of unemployment is a lot higher than the reported numbers as the more than 3 million people receiving wage subsidies from the government aren't counted as unemployed.

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

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