Australia's December seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest since April.
Analysts said the data suggested the Reserve Bank of Australia was likely to stop pumping money into the economy by buying government bonds and Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned that taxpayers' money "can't be used endlessly to run the Australian economy."
Morrison said the government had sought to provide "as much certainty as possible about what the support arrangements are" but businesses would have to make tough choices because it was "not sustainable" to continue to use debt to prop up the economy, The Guardian reported Thursday.
Unemployment was 6.6% in December from 6.8% a month earlier and below a market consensus of 6.7%, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics published Thursday.
This was the lowest since April as the economy emerged from the COVID-19 shocks, the bureau said.
"The number of unemployed declined by 30,100 to 912,000 people, as people looking for full-time work was down by 14,300 to 658,700 and those looking for only part-time work declined by 15,800 to 253,300. Employment grew by 50,000 to 12,910,800, matching market estimates, as full-time employment went up by 35,700 to 8,761,400, and part-time employment gained 14,300 to 4,149,300," it said.
"The participation rate edged up to a 16-month high of 66.2% in December from 66.1% in November, in line with forecasts. The underemployment rate fell to 0.8 points to 8.5%, and the underutilization rate dropped 1.1 points to 15.1%. Monthly hours worked in all jobs rose 2 million hours, or 0.1% to 1,753 million hours."
Bjorn Jarvis, head of labor statistics at the bureau, said this latest data showed that the broad recovery in the labor market had continued through to the end of the year.
"Employment finished the year 0.7% below the March level, having fallen 6.7%, or 872,000 people, between March and May," he explained.
"Although employment has recovered 90% of the fall from March to May, the recovery in part-time employment has outpaced full-time employment. While part-time employment was higher than March, full-time employment was 1.3% below March," he added.
The data confirms "Australia's economy is a relative outperformer," BIS Oxford Economics chief economist said Sarah Hunter said according to Bloomberg News.
However, "the disproportionate impact on younger workers, who are more likely to work in the sectors that are still not able to operate normally, is also apparent as the unemployment rate for this group is 2.3 percentage points higher than a year ago."
Australia's recovery is bolstered by the authorities' ability to contain the virus - even accounting for recent isolated outbreaks - boosting confidence and encouraging cashed-up households to spend. That's prompted firms to resume hiring and Australians to return to the labor force, tempering the impact on unemployment as participation swells.