The number of Australians out of work rose in April, data showed Thursday, confounding expectations of a fall and sending the dollar down sharply as the prospect of an interest rate rise eased.
An extra 22,100 people were without work in the month, against an expected drop of 17,000 jobless.
The news sent the Australian dollar nearly one US cent lower to US$1.061 as the likelihood of an interest rate rise faded.
The number of people employed in April decreased to a seasonally-adjusted 11,436,500, driven by a 49,100 fall in full-time jobs to 8,056,800.
This was partially offset by an increase in part-time employment, up 26,900 to 3,379,700.
Economists had tipped the number of people with jobs to rise by 17,000.
The jobless rate held steady at a seasonally-adjusted 4.9 percent.
Despite the slide in employment, Treasurer Wayne Swan said the labour market remained strong.
"These figures do build on an exceptional record for this government when it comes to jobs," he said.
Since Labor came to power in November 2007, an extra 700,000 people have found work, he said, adding that this compared favourably with the rest of the world where 30 million jobs have gone during the period.
"Here in Australia we have the benefit of a strong labour market, and we also have the benefit of investment boom which will continue to create jobs," he said.
On Tuesday, Swan announced in the government's 2011-12 budget a plan to create 500,000 jobs in the period to mid-2013.