SYDNEY - AUSTRALIAN unemployment rose to 4.5 per cent in December, its highest level in almost two years, as the global economic slowdown hurt growth, official figures showed on Thursday.
The jobless rate was up from 4.4 per cent in November, with 43,900 fewer people in full-time work, taking the jobless rate to its highest level since March 2007.
A total of 7.6 million Australians were in full-time work in December, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said. Part-time work figures rose by 42,800, taking the total part-time workforce to 3.1 million.
The total number of people employed in the economy dropped by 1,200 to 10.74 million in seasonally-adjusted terms.
In November total employment was 10.75 million, down from 10.77 million in October.
The figures were 'much better' than expected, ABN AMRO chief economist Kieran Davies told Dow Jones Newswires.
However, Davies warned that the increase in part-time data could indicate that employers were reducing workers' hours, ahead of job cuts.
The Reserve Bank of Australia would not be deterred from further rate reductions, said Davies, predicting a 50-basis point cut when the Bank meets on February 3.
The government has forecast the jobless rate will rise to 5.0 per cent by June, as the economy slows further and more jobs are shed. Analysts predict the rate will hit 6.5 per cent by the end of 2009. -- AFP