Aussie dollar spikes on jobs figures
The Australian dollar shot higher on news the nation's full-time employment rose, which could reassure the Reserve Bank there is positive underlying momentum in the economy.
The Aussie spiked to 72.06 US cents on the release of the data outlining the jobless rate remained steady at 5.0 per cent in January.
Thursday's data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed the full-time jobs boost knocked the seasonally adjusted underemployment rate down from 8.3 per cent to 8.1 per cent, while the participation rate increased by 0.1 percentage points to 65.7 per cent.
Westpac senior currency strategist Sean Callow said in a tweet the surprising upside to the data was a nice surprise for the Aussie dollar.
He said his group had a high value estimate of 73 US cents but the RBA cutting the official cash rate would drag the Aussie dollar lower.
Debate has raged on what the RBA's next move with the cash rate will be, and AMP chief economist Shane Oliver tweeted the job figures will strengthen the case for it remaining at its current record low.
"The labour market remains a strong point for the Aust economy," he said. "Will keep RBA on hold for a while yet."
Mr Oliver has been vocal on his views the next move in the rate will be down and he said it will likely be cut twice in the second half of this year.
The ABS data matched consensus expectations and showed a net increase of 39,100 persons with work, including 65,400 more people in full-time employment and 26,300 fewer people in part-time employment.
BIS Oxford Economics analyst Sarah Hunter said the result was positive, especially the lift in full-time work, but she remains cautious about the nation's economic outlook.
"Strong employment growth will help to support consumer spending and therefore GDP growth, but households continue to face weak growth in wages and other sources of income," she said.
"Residential construction is also set to become a bigger drag on momentum as we move through 2019."
Lacklustre December quarter wage data on Wednesday tested the RBA's narrative on the health of the economy, with analysts pinning hopes on an increase in jobs to stimulate spending amid a housing downturn.
Ms Hunter said a steady unemployment rate would likely see the cash rate kept on hold this year.
"Growth will be strong enough to not require a cut, but not strong enough to warrant a rate rise until the end of 2020 at the earliest," Ms Hunter said.
In seasonally adjusted terms, the largest increase in employment in January was in New South Wales, a 47,200 increase in jobs, followed by Victoria, up 2200, and Western Australia, up 800.
The largest decrease was in Queensland, down 19,900 jobs, followed by South Australia, down 4500.
The seasonally adjusted underemployment rate decreased in all states.
The ABS said January's net movement was underpinned by about 300,000 people entering and leaving employment.