13/03/2008 - 09:59

WA jobless rate falls to nation leading 2.8% in Feb, ABS

13/03/2008 - 09:59

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Western Australia achieved the lowest jobless rate in the nation of 2.8 per cent in February, while Australia's jobless rate dropped to a fresh 33-year low of 4 per cent in the period, according to new Australian Bureau of Statistics figures.

Western Australia achieved the lowest jobless rate in the nation of 2.8 per cent in February, while Australia's jobless rate dropped to a fresh 33-year low of 4 per cent in the period, according to new Australian Bureau of Statistics figures.

WA's result is the equal lowest rate that the state has ever achieved and better than any other state for the eighth month in a row.

Last month's unemployment rate for WA stood at 3.3 per cent.

There are now more than 1.13 million people in either full time or part time work in WA, making WA the best state for participation levels.

Employment Protection minister Jon Ford said the latest figures highlighted the buoyant nature of the WA economy and confirmed its status as a powerhouse.

"It is also encouraging to know that participation rates remain at record levels, the highest in Australia, making the West the easiest state in Australia in which to get a job," Mr Ford said.

Nationally, the seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate tightened to 4.0 per cent in February from 4.1 per cent in January, suggesting that interest rates will remain high for some time yet.

The number of people employed jumped by a seasonally-adjusted 36,700 in February. Full-time employment surged by 47,700.

Economists had expected total employment to rise by 15,000 and a jobless rate of 4.2 per cent.

Federal treasurer Wayne Swan said the employment numbers were a cause for celebration, but productivity needed to improve if jobs growth was to be maintained.

"We celebrate the jobs figures today," Mr Swan told parliament.

"But of course there are challenges. If we want to continue to have strong jobs growth, we have got to control inflation, we have got to lift our productivity.

"We can have strong growth if we lift our productivity and control inflation, and that's what we on this side of the house are doing.

"It means fighting inflation, it means investing in the productive drivers of growth, it means dealing with the skills shortages."

Still, there are early signs that the rate of employment growth may ease in coming months.

The ANZ job advertisement series for February released earlier this week - a key pointer to future hiring intentions - posted its first fall for 15 months.

"Any weakness in employment growth is probably still a few months away," Lehman Brothers Australia chief economist Stephen Roberts said.

"When employment does weaken that will be a sign that a weaker trend in economic growth is already entrenched."

The jobless rate in NSW fell to 4.2 per cent in February from 4.5 per cent in January and in Victoria it dropped to 4.1 per cent from 4.5 per cent, but in Queensland it rose to 3.6 per cent from 3.4 per cent.

In South Australia the unemployment rate fell to 4.5 per cent in February from 4.6 per cent in the previous month while in Tasmania it rose to 5.1 per cent from 5.0 per cent.

In the Northern Territory the jobless rate was 4.9 per cent compared to 5.0 per cent in the previous month and in the ACT it was unchanged at 2.4 per cent.

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