Victoria’s jobless rate hits 12-year high

Victorian Premier Denis Napthine. Photo: Ken IrwinRising unemployment could become a political headache for the Napthine government ahead of the November state election, with Victoria’s unemployment rate reaching its highest level for more than a decade with the loss of almost 16,000 jobs over the past year.

Despite this, an increase in full-time employment has raised hopes that the job market is staging a tentative recovery after being hit by the long-term loss of manufacturing work and the confidence-sapping impact of the federal budget.

Figures from the Bureau of Statistics have revealed Victoria’s employment rate rose to a seasonally adjusted 6.5 per cent in June, up from 5.9 per cent a year earlier.

Less than five months out from the November 29 election, the outlook for employment in Victoria remains patchy.

Although the figures can fluctuate wildly from month to month, the state economy appears to have lost almost 15,900 jobs during the 2013-14 financial year.

But the pain has been confined to part-time employment. During the year, full-time employment rose by 19,900, although this was more than offset by the loss of 35,800 part-time positions.

Treasurer Michael O’Brien said Victoria had been leading the nation on full-time employment growth, with the state also recording a relatively high proportion of working-age people in work or actively looking for a job.

”The Victorian Coalition government has created more than 62,200 jobs since coming to office, and will continue to create jobs through the delivery of our $27 billion job-creating infrastructure program announced in this year’s state budget,” he said.

Despite the surge in full-time work, unemployment across the state has been steadily creeping higher, rising from a low of 4.4 per cent in March 2011 to the current peak of 6.5 per cent, a level not seen since January 2002.

Nationally, unemployment has also increased – although not as steeply – rising from 4.9 per cent in March 2011 to 6 per cent in June 2014, with relatively solid employment in NSW, Queensland and Western Australia.

Melbourne economist MichaelEmerson, the director of Economic and Market Development Advisors, said Victoria’s jobs market had been patchy, with the long-term structural decline of the manufacturing sector partly offset by strength in the construction and business sectors.

He said business and consumer confidence had also been shaken by concerns about the future of automotive manufacturing and the federal budget, although the rise in full-time employment was an encouraging sign.

”What tends to happen is that as the economy recovers, you get more growth in full-time employment as businesses become more confident,” Mr Emerson said.

Opposition finance spokesman Robin Scott said the unemployment queue had grown by more than 53,000 since the Coalition was elected, with the state experiencing the largest monthly employment drop in the nation in June.

Using the bureau’s less volatile trend measure, Victoria’s unemployment rate was 6.4 per cent, up from 5.7 per cent a year earlier with the loss of 1300 jobs.

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