Jobless hits highest level since 2009
Economists say the Reserve Bank is expected is keep interest rates on hold next month despite the unemployment rate rising to its highest since 2009.
It rose to 5.6 per cent in March, the highest in 3½ years, with the economy losing 36,100 positions, reversing about half the gain of the previous month.
Full-time jobs fell by 7400 and part-time jobs by 28,700, Bureau of Statistics data released on Thursday showed.
The participation rate fell 20 basis points to 65.1 per cent in March.
"Clearly, this means that the RBA is not going to ditch its easing bias any time soon," said ANZ's head of Australian economics, Justin Fabo.
"But equally, though, it's certainly not enough to make them pull the trigger for further cuts in coming months, because they have been expecting the unemployment rate to drift a little higher."
Victoria and Queensland recorded the largest falls, losing 9300 and 7400 jobs respectively. Tasmania's unemployment rate jumped the most, to 7.3 per cent from 6.6 per cent.
Analysts said that, looking beyond the volatility of the seasonally adjusted monthly jobs figures, the trend estimates showed the unemployment rate slowly rising.
"There is a clear upward trend in the unemployment rate now, and that suggests the economy is growing below its average pace," said Brian Redican, head of Australian economics at Macquarie Securities.
"If you look at business surveys, hiring intentions are very weak."
The number of jobs created, which is growing at about 12,600 a month in trend terms, was failing to keep pace with the strong growth in population, analysts said. The labour force is growing at about 25,000 a month.
At the same time, government tax data, which tracked pay-as-you-go tax and payroll taxes, remained steady, which implied the labour market might be stronger than suggested by Bureau of Statistics data, according to Commonwealth Bank senior economist Michael Workman.