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Jobs figures a mixed bag

GROWTH in Western Australia’s burgeoning jobs market slowed in the June quarter, according to the latest jobs figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. But WA can still boast an annual jobs growth rate 2 per cent higher than the national average, adding further concern from industry groups over the state’s widening skills shortage. The figures, which deliver a mixed blessing, also represent the 11th month the unemployment rate has remained at or below the 5 per cent mark. WA’s jobless rate was up slightly for the quarter but is still the lowest in the nation at 4.8 per cent, according to the figures. Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA senior economist John Nicolaou said it was too early to read anything into the unemployment figures. The chamber is forecasting unemployment trending back down towards 4.75 per cent. Mr Nicolaou also pointed out the very high participation rate in WA, which currently sits at 68 per cent, compared with the national average of 64 per cent. “It’s an indication of the WA economy at the moment with regards to capacity, but the thing to note is the demographics in WA. We have a young workforce at the moment and we’re seeing a lot of interstate migration – people are wanting to come and work in the strong economy that we have at the moment,” Mr Nicolaou said. He said it was too early to see any feedback from the skills shortage into jobs growth, but there were certainly holes appearing in sectors other than resources and construction. The ANZ Bank’s seasonally adjusted count of job vacancies advertised in WA newspapers also rose between May and June, up by 0.2 per cent. Vacancies have risen by 0.1 per cent in the past three months and increased by 12.6 per cent through the year to June 2005, according to the data. Quick to acknowledge the ABS figures, Consumer and Employment Protection Minister John Kobelke issued a statement saying the June unemployment figures showed WA’s economy continued to boom. “The long-term low unemployment we are experiencing is delivering to all Western Australians the benefits of our state’s strong economic growth,” Mr Kobelke said. But there is mounting pressure from industry groups on all stakeholders to address the corollary of lower unemployment – a widening skills shortage. A recent CCCIWA report says the underlying strength of the state’s domestic economy is also likely to be reflected in the continued strength of the labour market, although there is increasing evidence that tighter labour market conditions are flowing through to skill shortages and accelerating wage increases. The Chamber of Minerals and Energy WA says the resources sector, hardest hit by the shortage, has been investing heavily to address the problem. “The WA resources sector is employing a range of strategies, from leading the National Skills Shortage strategy working group, to industry marketing and careers information, and supporting new research highlighting skills requirements to 2015,” the chamber said in a recent statement.

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