Australian jobless rate beats expectations, drops to 5.5% in April

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia's unemployment rate eased to 5.5 per cent in April, data showed on Thursday, beating expectations by creating 50,100 jobs despite a slowdown in the mining-driven economy.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said the jobless rate fell 0.1 percentage points from 5.6 per cent in March, outdoing analyst forecasts that unemployment would hold steady.

The number of jobs created - 50,100 - was well ahead of the 12,000 consensus, and saw the Australian dollar surge to US$1.0248 from US$1.0189, with the market perceiving it as proof of unexpected resilience.

The Reserve Bank of Australia slashed interest rates to 2.75 per cent this week, a record low not seen since the establishment of the bank in 1959, in a bid to stimulate the economy as it transitions away from the mining sector.

The bank expects investment in the historic mining boom which saw Australia dodge recession during the financial crisis to peak this year, and other sectors in the economy will need to pick up the slack.

Central bank governor Glenn Stevens on Tuesday said domestic growth had slowed in the second half of 2012 and also cited rising unemployment as an indicator of sluggishness in the broader economy.

Growth was 0.6 per cent in the three months to December and 3.1 per cent in calendar 2012, with economists warning of a significant slowdown if the non-mining economy continued failing to fire.