09/04/2009 - 09:36

WA jobless rate jumps to 4.9% in March

09/04/2009 - 09:36

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More Western Australians joined the search for work in March as the state's unemployment rate jumped to a seasonally adjusted 4.9 per cent, figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show.

More Western Australians joined the search for work in March as the state's unemployment rate jumped to a seasonally adjusted 4.9 per cent, figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show.

WA recorded the second biggest rise in the nation with the jobless rate climbing from a revised down 4.1 per cent recorded in February. The rate in New South Wales soared to a 10-year high from 5.9 per cent to 6.9 per cent.

For WA, the latest unemployment figure is at a four-and-a-half year high since the 5 per cent jobless rate reached in September 2004.

During March, WA's participation rate rose from February's 69 per cent to a seasonally adjusted 69.4 per cent.

CommSec chief economist Craig James said the state recorded no job losses with the total number of people in work steady at 1.16 million.

The number of people in full-time employment in WA rose from 829,800 to 830,200 while the youth unemployment rate rose sharply from 10.5 per cent to 18.3 per cent.

Treasurer Troy Buswell said sharp spike in the WA figures showed the impact of the global financial crisis on WA.

"In many ways this is not about the figures, it's about the people who sit behind the figures and what we're seeing is the emerging human face in Western Australia of the economic tsunami that is the global financial crisis," Mr Buswell told reporters.

"It's one thing to look at figures on a piece of paper but it's another thing to put yourself in the shoes of those people and the unfortunate situation they are in," he said.

"The unfortunate reality is that the economy will get worse before it gets better and that these sorts of figures will be surpassed in the months to come."

While most people thought Australia would technically fall into recession by the end of the financial year WA was unlikely to, Mr Buswell said.

The state was cushioned from the crisis by public sector projects but investment was set to dry up, he said.

"The advice we are receiving there is not a lot in the pipeline."

Mr Buswell said the March jobless figures were an aberration with no change in the level of employment but participation rate levels rising.

But he said more jobs would be lost in WA.

The WA government would work with the commonwealth to put a floor in the fall of the state's economy, Mr Buswell said.

WA would seek partnerships with the commonwealth to boost infrastructure projects and sustain jobs, he said.

Meantime, the national jobless rate soared to 5.7 per cent, the highest level since October 2003 when it was 5.8 per cent.

It compared with 5.2 per cent in February and is 1.8 percentage points above the 34-year low of 3.9 per cent record in February 2008.

Mr James said excluding NSW's jobless rate, the national unemployment rate would have been 5.2 per cent.

"The global financial crisis has caught up with Australia and Sydney is paying the price for being the nation's financial centre," he said.

"US and European investment banks have cut staff across the globe and most of the Australian-based staff are located in Sydney."

Mr James added that NSW accounted for around half of the job losses across the country with 15,900 less workers in March.

Nationally, the number of people employed dropped by a seasonally adjusted 34,700. There was a 38,900 slump in full time positions, while part-time jobs rose by 4,200.

"Australia has a two-speed economy," Mr James said.

"NSW is sputtering in first gear and in danger of shifting into reverse.

"But outside NSW, the economy is chugging along in third gear, with perhaps the mining regions travelling a little slower in second."

He forecasts the national jobless rate to drift higher in the coming months as employers remain reticent about hiring, but the situation is expected to improve later in the year.

Mr James' forecast differs from others with the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry tipping a 9 per cent jobless rate by the middle of next year.

The federal government is expected revise up its unemployment forecasts in the May 12 budget given the rapid deterioration in economic activity.

In other states, Queensland's jobless rate rose to 4.8 per cent from 4.5 per cent while in South Australia it increased to 5.9 per cent from 5.7 per cent.

The unemployment rate in Victoria rose to 5.7 per cent from 5.6 per cent and in the ACT it increased to 2.8 per cent from 2.7 per cent.

Bucking the trend, the jobless rate was unchanged at 4.9 per cent in the Northern Territory and in Tasmania it fell to 4.3 per cent from 4.5 per cent.

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