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Australian unemployment jumps to 4-year high

Australian unemployment jumps to 4-year high

Unemployment in Australia rose to its highest level in nearly four years in February, showing the global downturn continues to bite despite big interest rate cuts and the government pumping billions of dollars into the economy.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics said Thursday that unemployment rose to 5.2 percent from 4.8 percent in January. Economists expected the jobless rate would rise to 5 percent. Total employment rose by just 1,800 to 10.8 million, but full-time employment decreased by 53,800. Part-time employment was up 55,600.
"These figures show that the global financial crisis and global recession is impacting on Australia and it's impacting on the jobs of Australians," Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard told reporters in Canberra. "The government's always said that we wouldn't be immune from the global financial crisis and the global recession which has wreaked so much havoc in economies around the world."
The global downturn that began to bite last year has brought about a swift reversal of fortunes for Australia's economy, which has enjoyed 17 consecutive years of growth fueled by voracious demand from China and elsewhere for its mineral exports.
Although Australia is not yet officially in a recession, figures released last week indicate it could be headed that way. Australia's economy shrank 0.5 percent in the last quarter of 2008 _ the economy's first contraction in eight years. Australia considers its economy in recession if it experiences two consecutive quarters of contraction.
The bad jobs news came despite the efforts of the federal government and the Reserve Bank of Australia to bolster the economy. The government passed two stimulus packages totaling 52.4 billion Australian dollars ($34 billion) in the last few months, and the central bank cut its key interest rate by 4 percentage points from September to February.
"Any job loss in Australia is one too many as far as I'm concerned, but had we waited and done nothing instead of acting decisively, these unemployment figures would be much worse," Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.
Prospects for employment remain gloomy, with the federal government predicting a jobless rate of 5.5 percent by June, and 7 percent by the same time next year.
The latest figures showed states most associated with mining and manufacturing were hit the hardest, with Western Australia experiencing the biggest jump in unemployment _ surging to 4.2 percent in February from 3.3 percent in the previous month.
The Reserve Bank left the key interest rate unchanged at 3.25 percent earlier this month, but many economists predicted that would change in the wake of Thursday's grim news.
Commonwealth Bank senior economist John Peters said he expected the bank to cut the rate to 2.75 percent on April 7, from its current 45-year low. "The Reserve Bank will be doing some more cutting ... although the large cuts are behind us," he said.


Updated : 2021-05-13 15:08 GMT+08:00