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SA unemployment rises in December

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South Australia’s unemployment rate rose in December but the figure remains below the national average, according to official data released today.

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The state’s unemployment rate was the lowest in the nation in November, at 6.2 per cent (seasonally adjusted), but rose to 6.4 per cent in the final month of 2020.

This put the state’s jobless rate below the national figure – 6.6 per cent – and on par with NSW.

Of the states, only Western Australia (6.2 per cent) recorded a lower rate than SA and NSW. Queensland had the highest unemployment rate (7.5 per cent). Victoria’s unemployment rate fell by 0.6 percentage points to 6.5 per cent.

However, the Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows South Australia continued to have the highest underemployment rate in the country – 10.4 per cent compared to the national average of 8.5 per cent.

The participation rate, which measures the proportion of people either in the workforce or looking for a job, rose marginally in South Australia, but it remains the second-lowest in the country, ahead of Tasmania.

The number of people in South Australia in work fell in November and December but is ahead of the level recorded by the ABS in September.

South Australian Innovation and Skills Minister David Pisoni said there were now more South Australians in full-time jobs than before the pandemic.

He welcomed an increase in the number of full-time jobs in December, however the figures show this was more than offset by a fall in part-time employment.

“December’s jobs figures reinforce recent economic reports showing that South Australia has weathered the COVID storm remarkably well to date, with low case numbers, businesses open, and more full-time jobs,” Pisoni said.

Labor’s treasury spokesperson Stephen Mullighan described the figures as “grim reading”.

“Not only is SA the only state where unemployment has gone up, we have seen the number of South Australians with a job go down again,” he said.

“The fact SA has the worst underemployment rate in Australia reveals there is a broader problem with South Australians being unable to secure enough work to make ends meet.”

Nationally, the unemployment rate dropped to 6.6 per cent in December as another 50,000 people found jobs in the month.

The result exceeded predictions – economists had forecast the jobless rate to ease to 6.7 per cent from 6.8 per cent in November. But it is still shielded by the Federal Government’s JobKeeper scheme, which is set to end in March.

The unemployment figures were a further retreat from the 22-year high of 7.5 per cent last July and during the depths of the recession.

The ABS released the figures today as Prime Minister Scott Morrison was holding a media conference in Gladstone.

“Jobs, jobs and jobs, that’s what we’re about,” Morrison said in immediate response to the report, adding he would want to study the figures before commenting further.

December’s employment rise comprised a 35,700 increase in full-time workers and a 14,300 lift in part-time positions.

Recent strong vacancy and job advertising figures suggest the labour market should see further strength in coming months, dating both Treasury’s and Reserve Bank’s forecasts.

Only last month Treasury forecast a jobless rate of 7.25 per cent by June this year, while in November the RBA predicted a rate of 7.5 per cent by then.

more to come

– with AAP

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