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SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia's jobless rate jumped to 5.7 percent in June, its highest level in almost four years, as the mining-driven economy gears up for a bumpy transition away from its reliance on commodities.
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate compares with an upwardly revised 5.6 percent in May, and is higher than the 5.6 percent forecast by analysts.
It is the highest level since September 2009 and is just shy of the 5.8 percent peak reached at the height of the financial crisis.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics said joblessness rose despite the economy creating a net 10,300 jobs, owing to a plunge in full-time employment. The market had expected a neutral outcome.
Major mining companies have started laying off workers in recent months as Australia's resources investment boom peaks and the economy confronts a tough diversification drive to other sources of growth.
Reflecting this, one of the sharpest increases in unemployment was in Queensland, a major coal-mining centre, where it jumped to 6.4 percent from 5.9 percent in May.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the truth was the "China resources boom is over".
"While the export of resource and commodity volumes are up, the prices we receive for them have now fallen almost 25 percent since their peak and may well fall further," Rudd said in his first major policy speech since ousting Julia Gillard as leader last month.
"That investment phase is slowing. Right now, we find ourselves at a cross-over point for our national economy."
The central bank cut interest rates to a record low 2.75 percent in May in a bid to stimulate non-mining areas of the economy, citing rising unemployment as one of its concerns.
The Australian dollar edged higher on the data to 92.39 US cents, from 92.19 cents immediately prior its release, with analysts saying the overall rise in job creation meant it was "moderately positive" news.
"We're still adding jobs, just not enough," said JP Morgan analyst Ben Jarman.
"This is consistent with an economy that is slowing a bit below trend pace and as a result of that, the labour market is loosening a bit.
"But it all looks pretty gradual and orderly at this point so you're not seeing deep cuts in the existing head count. All you're really seeing is a bit more restraint in terms of hiring.
Canberra expects unemployment to hit 5.75 percent in the year to June 30, 2014.