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Australia – Unemployment inching closer to post-financial crisis high

12 September 2013

Australia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased by +0.1% to 5.8% in August, according to the latest report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Prior to the release of the report, market analysts had predicted that unemployment would rise to 5.8%. The number of people unemployed increased during August by 9,400, equating to 714,100 jobless people.

Australian unemployment is now close to its peak of 5.9% that it reached in the middle of 2009 in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Before the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the ensuing financial crisis, Australian unemployment hovered around 4%. 

These results come swiftly on the heels of the latest election, which saw incumbent Labour Prime Minister Kevin Rudd defeated by a coalition led by Tony Abbott.

Ged Kearney, president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), said: “These figures show the difficulties faced by workers, especially those in casual or short-term work who are worried about job security. With unemployment rising, the last thing that Australian workers need is for the new Prime Minister to start cutting jobs or removing assistance to industry.”

“Mr Abbott needs to focus on jobs. This is not the time to be cutting public service jobs, industry support, and infrastructure… The rise in unemployment should not be used by business groups as an excuse to attack wages and conditions, such as penalty rates. Taking money out of workers pockets will simply take customers away from businesses and do nothing to increase employment,” she added.

Australian resources firms have already shed thousands of jobs and shuttered mines in parallel with China's slowdown, which over the past year has dented the price of commodities; such as coal and iron ore. Companies that provide engineering and construction services to mining companies have been especially hard hit as investment in new mines has dried up, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

Mr Abbott's coalition has pledged to reverse the sliding economy by cutting taxes and investing in new infrastructure such as roads. At the same time, however, he has rejected as too dramatic former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's claim that the China-led resources boom was effectively over.

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