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CANBERRA, AAP – The unemployment rate unexpectedly tumbled to 5.8 per cent in February as a further 88,700 people joined the workforce in the month.

Economists had expected a more modest 30,000 increase in employment in February, with the jobless rate easing to 6.3 per cent from an originally reported 6.4 per cent in January.

However the January rate was revised down to 6.3 per cent.

“The strong employment growth this month saw employment rise above 13 million people and was 4000 people higher than March 2020,” Australian Bureau of Statistics head of labour statistics Bjorn Jarvis said.

Meanwhile, a new report warns the good fortunes retailers enjoyed coming out of last year’s recession may not last as government stimulus measures wind back.

Retail spending was one of the bright spots of the economy in the second half of 2020, which could spill over into the early stages of this year.

But Deloitte Access Economics says a return to more normal spending could mean 2020’s windfalls are temporary.

Retail spending ended 2020 on a strong note, with volumes surging 6.4 per cent over the year to December quarter.

But Deloitte expects spending will slow during the second half this year to be down 0.4 per cent for 2021.

“Our fiscal stimulus tap has been turned down to a drip, meaning less money for households to spend,” Deloitte Access Economics partner David Rumbens said.

He says while households are expected to spend up given the good news on vaccines and fewer restrictions, this is more likely to be on travel and hospitality.