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Men winners in job market rise

By Peter Martin, Economics Correspondent
The Sydney Morning Herald

The jobs market has sprung back to life, with employers taking on workers at the fastest rate in almost two years.

And in a reversal of recent trends, almost all of the new jobs went to men, with NSW and Victoria providing the lion's share.

Last month's employment figures build a case for a rare pre-Christmas interest rate rise, which has happened only twice in the two decades the Reserve Bank has been announcing interest rate decisions.

An extra 24,500 people found jobs last month, adding to the 39,800 who found work in September. In less-volatile trend terms, there were 26,500 more jobs in the three months to October.

Almost 24,000 of those were taken by men. Employment climbed fastest in the wholesale trade, accommodation, catering, health care and social assistance industries.

Retail employment lost ground. The figures suggest the unemployment rate is near its peak. At 5.8 per cent after inching up from 5.7 per cent, it has scarcely moved since March. "It may have peaked already," said an AMP Capital economist, Shane Oliver.

"Business surveys point to solid employment growth going into next year." Increased job offers, fewer redundancies and renewed talk of labour shortages are likely to loosen purse strings as Christmas approaches, and as breadwinners become less worried about losing jobs.

"It will be a self-fulfilling prophecy," said a CommSec economist, Savanth Sebastian. "We will see a pick-up in retail spending and economic activity.

It appears almost certain the Reserve Bank will break tradition and raise interest rates for the third consecutive month."

A third rate rise would add a further $46 to the monthly cost of repaying a $300,000 mortgage, a total of $139 a month since the bank began lifting rates last month.

In Singapore for a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum, the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, played down the strength of the employment news, saying "substantial challenges" remained.

Published: 13 November 2009


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