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MORE than 53,000 full time jobs were lost in February, and it will get worse as the year goes on, economists say.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data released today showed the unemployment rate climbed to 5.2 per cent in February, despite total employment increasing by 1800.

Part-time employment increased by more than 55,000.

HSBC economist John Edwards said the data was surprising in that overall employment had increased, as opposed to a fall which most economists were expecting.

“This is the second consecutive month in which it’s increased against market expectations, and this does confirm the resilience of Australian employment in the face of relentlessy bad economic news,” he told

But Commonwealth Bank senior economist John Peters said the shedding of full-time staff “really captures the market at the moment”.

“Obviously, turnover in companies and production is being cut as there is switch from full-time to part-time workers.”

Mr Peters said unemployment was a lagging indicator of the economy and was only starting to reflect the sharp slowdown of late 2008.

“We expect to see a further rise in unemployment over the course of this year,” he said.
Worse without stimulus – PM

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the jobs data would have been a lot worse without the Government’s stimulus measures.

“Any job loss is one too many as far as I am concerned,” Mr Rudd told reporters in Canberra.
“But had we waited and done nothing … these unemployment figures would have been a lot worse.”

The economic slowdown on jobs is likely to intensify in coming months with the Federal Government predicting a jobless rate of 5.5 per cent by June this year, rising to 7 per cent 12 months later.

The gloomy prospects for employment had been highlighted earlier this week, with an ANZ survey finding in the year to February, the number of job advertisements in newspapers and on the internet fell nearly 40 per cent. This was the worst outcome in the history of the survey.

In January, the unemployment rate jumped to 4.8 per cent from 4.5 per cent the previous month.

Economists had expected the number of people employed to have dropped by around 20,000 in February after increasing by a slim 1200 in January.

Mining states hardest hit
States most associated with mining and manufacturing were the worst hit in this latest spike in the jobless rate.

Western Australia saw the biggest jump in unemployment in February, surging to 4.2 per cent from 3.3 per cent, while in Victoria it rose to 5.6 per cent from 4.8 per cent.

In NSW the jobless rate rose to 5.8 per cent from 5.5 per cent and in South Australia it increased to 5.8 per cent from 5.6 per cent. In Queensland it rose to 4.5 per cent from 4.4 per cent.

The rate in Tasmania was unchanged at 4.5 per cent, as was the case in the Northern Territory which recorded a 3.9 per cent jobless rate and the ACT which posted a rate of 2.4 per cent.,27753,25175631-462,00.html?referrer=email


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