Surge in WA unemployment makes it worst in Australia

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) this week released its monthly unemployment figures which showed WA’s rate rose 0.4 percentage points from a seasonally adjusted 6.1 per cent in September to 6.5 per cent last month.

The figures mean WA now has now overtaken South Australia to take the highest unemployment rate in the nation. South Australia’s jobless rate fell from 6.7 per cent in September to 6.4 per cent in October.

Across the nation unemployment remained at 5.6 per cent, emphasising the emerging divide between economic conditions in WA and the Eastern States.

In New South Wales, for instance, the unemployment rate for October was its lowest for four years at 4.9 per cent.

WA is being hit hardest by the slowdown in the resources construction boom and overall softer commodity prices.

WA Commerce Minister Michael Mischin said seeing distress in the jobs market was “always disturbing”.

“Regrettably we have an economy which is subject to fluctuations and volatility depending on the price of commodities and the jobs market will increase and decrease accordingly,” he said.

“You’ve got to remember, we have had an enormous increase in people from the Eastern States during the mining peak several years ago, now those people are finding that their job prospects have been reduced because the resource industry is in a slump.”

He said the Government had been “roundly criticised” for the major construction projects it had pursued during its term, despite the fact these had created jobs.

Opposition Leader Mark McGowan blamed the State Government for failing to diversify the economy beyond mining, resulting in the “worst number of unemployed people in the history of our State”.

“Over 92,000 West Australians are out of work,” he said.

“Twenty-two consecutive months of increases in unemployment. An additional 62,000 West Australians out of work since this Government arrived in office.

“This is a jobs crisis of monumental proportions in WA that is of the Liberal-National Government’s making.”

The Chamber of Minerals and Energy used the WA data to support its case against the iron ore levy hike proposed by Brendon Grylls.

It argued that the State can’t afford the 3400 job losses which Deloitte Access Economics has said the tax would cause.

The ABS reported 9800 jobs were created across the nation last month, but it also amended September’s data – which had previously shown a drop of 9800 – to 29,000 lost jobs. The result of this is a negative medium trend for the first time since 2013.

The employment market is experiencing significant volatility, with the September fall made up of 41,500 new full-time jobs but a loss of 74,300.

Around 31,700 part-time jobs were lost, cancelling out part of the previous 45,300 increase.

The participation rate, which reflects the number of people either employed or actively job hunting, remained unchanged at 64.4 per cent.

Across the nation in October, there was a rise of 0.9 per cent in hours worked – the fastest growth in five months.

This rise in hours worked is a result of the increase in full-time jobs, said Commsec chief economist Craig James.

Mr James said he didn’t anticipate any need for a change in interest rates for some time, but it was unclear whether the next move would be a rate hike or a rate cut.

He noted several factors influencing national trends: the uncertainty of the US presidential election has cleared, job ads are on the rise, home building is at record highs and there is firm growth coming from the Chinese and US economies.

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