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--
By Sophia Rodrigues
     SYDNEY (MNI) - The following are the five key observations we made from
Australia's labor force survey for February published by the Australian Bureau
of Statistics Thursday:
     --Australia's labor market has created jobs for 17 months in a row and
added the most jobs in uninterrupted period of job gains -- both new records.
The number of employed persons +17,500 m/m was, however, lower than MNI median
forecast for +20,000 and followed downward revision in January employed numbers.
     --The pace of jobs gains has slowed on a six-monthly basis to a monthly
rate of +26,900 compared with monthly rate of +43,200 in the six months prior.
In particular, the average monthly rate for the two months this year is just
+15,000. If the rate of job growth continues at this slower pace and labor
participation rate remains elevated or rises further, then it poses a risk for
unemployment rate to drop below 5.5%.
     --The quality of job growth in February was good, with full-time jobs
making up all the gains and was offset by fall in part-time jobs. Monthly hours
worked also rose.
     --Underemployment rate (this data point is published every quarter) rose
slightly to 8.4% from 8.3% in November. Labor underutilization rate also rose
slightly to 13.9% from 13.8%. The outcome isn't surprising given the
unemployment rate has moved up to 5.6% in February from 5.4% in November.
Together with jobless rate, they indicate spare capacity hasn't declined in the
labor market despite continued growth in employment.
     --Employment-to-population ratio has remained at 62.0%. This is an
important indicator of the health of the labor market and suggests that the
strength remains.
--MNI Sydney Bureau; tel: +61 2-9716-5467; email: sophia.rodrigues@marketnews.com
[TOPICS: MALDS$,MMLRB$,M$A$$$,M$L$$$,MT$$$$]