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SA jobless rate ticks up in final pre-election release

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South Australia’s unemployment rate rose slightly in January, despite an increase in full-time jobs.

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In the final set of Australian Bureau of Statistics unemployment data before the March state election, SA’s jobless rate increased from 5.9 per cent in December to 6.0 per cent in January (seasonally adjusted), with only Queensland recording a higher rate.

The more stable trend rate was unchanged at 6.0 per cent – the equal worst in the country alongside Queensland and Western Australia.

The figures sparked a predictable to and fro between the major parties, with the Liberal Opposition arguing they demonstrate Labor’s failures, while the Government pointed to a range of job-creating projects, including a new manufacturing operation for the Elizabeth Holden site announced this morning.

The ABS figures show the largest increase in employment was in Queensland (up 19,700 persons) followed by South Australia (up 5300 persons, under half of whom won full-time jobs) and Victoria (up 2100 persons).

Drilling down into the data, the rate increase appears to be explained by a small rise in the participation rate – the proportion of people either in work or looking for a job.

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics

Nationally, the unemployment rate dropped slightly from 5.6 per cent in December to 5.5 per cent in January.

The states were a mixed picture: unemployment increased in NSW, Queensland and SA, while Victoria and Tasmania recorded falls.

The relative performances seemed tied to the participation rate in some states. The seasonally adjusted participation rate increased in Queensland and South Australia (0.5 and 0.4 percentage points respectively), while the largest fall was in Tasmania (down 0.7 percentage points).

State employment minister Kyam Maher focused on the longer-term picture, arguing that SA had experienced 29 months of continued employment growth.

He said that in January 2016, the headline rate was at 6.8 per cent. Compared to then, an additional 22,400 South Australians had jobs, with around 63 per cent of them in full-time work.

“Jobs are the State Government’s number one priority but there is always more work to be done,” he said in a statement.

“The Liberals dared Holden to leave SA and then they predicted unemployment would be in the double digits – on both accounts, they got it wrong.

“The Labor Government will always stand up for all South Australians to secure investments and work with business to create jobs in SA.”

His Opposition counterpart, Corey Wingard, argued the figures showed that “South Australia is heading in the wrong direction after 16 years of failed Labor administration”.

“These figures show that there are 592 fewer full-time jobs today than there were in February 2010, when Mike Rann promised 100,000 new jobs – it’s a disgrace and South Australians will not be fooled by Jay Weatherill and Tom Koutsantonis at this election.”

Meanwhile, the Premier this morning travelled to that symbol of South Australia’s employment issues – the site of the former Holden factory at Elizabeth – to announce a crane manufacturer would set up a $16 million operation there with the creation of 190 jobs.

Victorian-based Australian Crane and Machinery (ACM) has been given a $2.2 million grant from the Government’s economic investment fund to establish the facility, with production to begin in early 2019.

ACM managing director Ben Potter said South Australia had been chosen as the site for the new production facility “due to the presence of skill labour, engineers and a stable workforce and political environment”.

“The location is excellent for export market shipping and access to wind farms where our largest units are used for maintenance,” he said. “Of course, the weather is also great, which is important for us working and testing our machines in the field.”

Weatherill said the facility would create a diverse range of jobs and apprenticeships in the metal trades.

“This move by ACM to open a new manufacturing centre in South Australia is a vote of confidence in our state’s ability to manufacture and export technically-advanced, large-scale equipment to the world,” he said.

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