Job surge in Australia: Positive uptick or rogue figures?

May 7th, 2009 - 12:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, May 7 (DPA) Shocked Australian economists didn’t know whether to jeer or cheer Thursday when official figures showed unemployment falling to 5.4 percent in April from 5.7 percent in March.
Most had been tipping a sharp rise, pointing to plunging job ads and a slew of big lay-offs in the mining industry as harbingers of more economic misery.

Full-time positions surged by a whopping 49,100, balanced by a slide in part-time employment of 21,800.

“The outcome is at odds with the slowing economy, poor business surveys and rampant deceleration in respected job ads series,” TD Securities senior strategist Annette Beacher said. “At face value, we’re treating this outcome as a rogue number.”

But the more sanguine surveyors of the economy said the job figures were more evidence of the “green shoots” of an incipient recovery.

Twenty-four hours earlier, other projections of most economists had been overturned when official figures showed a 2.2 percent jump in retail spending in March.

Also confounding those pundits who reckoned Australia would not be out of recession until well into next year was a massive surge in exports to China in March, which delivered the second-biggest monthly trade surplus on record.

UBS chief economist Scott Haslem said a strong retail sector and buoyant export figures might mean a mild recession rather than a deep one.

“A positive first-quarter GDP result isn’t out of the question,” he said.

The job figures, combined with retail sales registering their strongest growth since 2007, spurred a rally on the stock market. By mid-morning, the ASX 200 index had put on 70 points, or almost 2 percent.

The ASX-200 is more than 25 percent higher than March 10 when it hit a low for the year.

The optimists have been cheered by bullish remarks from Goldman Sachs JB where stock trader Richard Coppleson who reckoned the bears were finally at bay and the bulls were coming back.

“The bear market lows will never be breached,” he predicted.

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