Positive job figures help Labor dodge Opposition attacks

LABOR'S election campaign is dodging threat after threat this week, its good luck on job figures helping avoid an otherwise painful attack from the Opposition.

It is shaping up to be a charmed first week of campaigning for the ALP with interest rates cut to record lows on Tuesday and the dismissing of a High Court challenge to its mining tax on Wednesday.

The ABS figures show the national unemployment rate staying steady at 5.7% in July even with 10,200 jobs disappearing.

The next set of ABS job figures will not be released until after the September 7 election.

Federal Employment Minister Brendan O'Connor was careful in spruiking the ABS data.

The direction of the economic winds was changing, he said, describing the lacklustre figures as a result of falling investment in mining.

He said the numbers showed Labor created almost one million new jobs since taking power in 2007.

Economists said a higher unemployment rate in the figures was averted as workforce participation fell - describing the steady headline rate as "a gift" for the government.

The government's own economic statement suggests unemployment will hit 6.25% within 12 months, where it will stay until at least 2015.

New South Wales unemployment increased from 5.4% to 5.6%, up 0.4% on July last year, but still a shade below the national average.

In Queensland, unemployment fell by from 6.3% to 5.9% - to land back where it was in July 2012 - remaining above the 5.7% national rate.

Queensland and New South Wales conservative governments praised their own states, describing the performance as all the more impressive given instability and chaos in Canberra.

HSBC chief economist Paul Bloxham said the ABS data also showed Australians were being worked harder as bosses refused to put on more staff.

"While employment has been weakening, overall hours workers have been rising," he said.

"It seems that firms have had more work that needs to be done, but have been reluctant to hire more workers to do it, choosing instead to boost hours.

"This could reflect the impact that political uncertainty is having on firms."

This concern is likely to disappear after the September 7 election.

Before then, the government will have another minefield to navigate, with the Reserve Bank to discuss an interest rates cut on September 2.



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