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SA jobless rate still highest as national rate drops to 14-year low


South Australia’s unemployment rate has been reinforced as the nation’s highest after climbing to 5 per cent in February, despite the national rate falling to 4 per cent – the lowest level since 2008.

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Australian Bureau of Statistics labour force figures for February, released today, showed South Australia’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate increased by 0.2 percentage points from the nation-topping 4.8 per cent recorded in January.

SA’s rate was significantly higher than second-placed Queensland on 4.3 per cent, followed by Victoria’s 4.2 per cent, Western Australia’s 4.1 per cent, Tasmania’s 3.9 per cent and New South Wales on 3.7 per cent.

SA’s jobless rate climbed despite a 0.5 per cent increase in the number of people finding work, while the underemployment rate fell along with a 0.4 percentage point drop in the participation rate – which measures people actively looking for work – to 63.4 per cent.

Nationally, another 77,000 people found work in February, with the number of unemployed dropping by 18,500.

The participation rate increased to 66.4 per cent and underemployment dropped to 6.6 per cent.

“This is the lowest unemployment rate since August 2008 and only the third time in the history of the monthly survey when unemployment was as low as 4.0 per cent (February 2008, August 2008, February 2022),” said ABS head of labour statistics Bjorn Jarvis.

“Lower unemployment rates occurred in the series before November 1974, when the survey was quarterly.

“The 3.8 per cent unemployment rate for women was the lowest since May 1974. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for men fell to 4.2 per cent, its second lowest level since November 2008 and just above the rate from December 2021 of 4.1 per cent.”

Jarvis also said the February figures showed a higher than usual number of people working reduced or no hours due to illness or sick leave, although it was not recorded what percentage might be COVID-related.

“The number of employed people working no hours over the entire week due to illness or sick leave was around 80% higher than what we would usually see in February, having been around triple the usual level in January,” he said.

Premier Steven Marshall hailed the positives in today’s state figures.

“It is a record for South Australia – record full-time employment for South Australia, a major surge in the participation rate for South Australia and we’ve created more than 43,000 jobs since coming to government,” he said.

“I think the thing that I’m most excited about is the massive surge in the participation rate. Don’t forget these stats come in the first two weeks of February when we still had significant restrictions.

“I’m predicting a very significant further increase in employment when the March statistics come out next month.”

But Master Builders SA CEO Will Frogley told InDaily that the jobless rate could partly be blamed on strict COVID rules.

“The close contact requirements are hammering our industry at the moment and it’s really hurting productivity,” he said.

“The building and construction-led economic recovery is being hampered by overly restrictive close contact requirements. We are out of step with the rest of Australia. It’s no coincidence we have some of the the harshest restrictions and the highest unemployment rate.”

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