Run of jobs growth extends into new year

The unemployment rate was 5.5 per cent in January, down from a revised 5.6 per cent in December. (AAP)

Australia's unemployment rate is 5.5 per cent after data shows a rise in part-time jobs had eclipsed the fall in full-time positions in January.

A surge in part-time positions has eclipsed a fall in full-time roles and given Australia a record 16 consecutive months of jobs growth, and an unemployment rate of 5.5 per cent.

The total number of people with jobs rose by 16,000 in January, as the addition of 65,900 part-time jobs eclipsed a fall of 49,800 full-time positions.

CommSec chief economist Craig James said the long run of monthly job growth eclipses the previous record run achieved in 1993 and 1994.

"Overall, the job market is clearly in great shape," Mr James said.

The figures were largely consistent with economists' expectations, and the unemployment rate was slightly lower from December, after an upward revision by the Australian Bureau of Statistics to 5.6 per cent.

The participation rate - the number of people either employed or actively looking for work - fell 0.1 per cent in January to 65.6 per cent.

ANZ senior economist Felicity Emmett said an upward trend in job ads suggest there is further improvement ahead for the labour market.

"We expect a further decline in the unemployment rate in coming months," Ms Emmett said.

JP Morgan analyst Ben Jarman said pressure was still not building on wages, however, with hours worked per person down 2.7 per cent from a year earlier to their lowest level since mid-2009.

The Reserve Bank of Australia has frequently highlighted the impact low wages growth is having on consumer spending and inflation, and expects it to remain weak for a while yet.

JP Morgan expects unemployment to remain between 5.5 per cent and 5.75 per cent, due to slow economic growth and the unlikelihood of employment growth in sectors such as manufacturing or retail.

"This will weigh on wages and unit labour costs and keep inflation well contained," Mr Jarman said.

The ABS data also showed that Tasmania and Victoria posted big falls in their unemployment rates.

Tasmania's rate dropped to 5.3 per cent in January, from 6.1 per cent in December, as the state's participation rate dropped 0.7 percentage points, while Victoria's rate fell from 6.1 per cent to 5.6 per cent.

The unemployment rate in NSW rose from 4.8 per cent to 5.1 per cent.

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