Australia’s unemployment rate has jumped to 5.2% in February as the global financial crisis continues to tear through the economy.
The result – the worst since March 2005 – is higher than predicted, as most economists tipped the rate would rise to 5%. The unemployment rate was 4.8% in January.
The data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows full-time employment fell by 53,800 to 7,664,200, while 55,600 part-time jobs were added.
The participation rate – which measures the number of people in work or looking for work – increased by 0.2% to 65.5%.
The unemployment shock is more bad news for the economy, which appears certain to officially fall into recession in the coming months.
The rate is only likely to go higher next month, given jobs cuts announced by big companies including Pacific Brands, Bank of Queensland, Mirvac and Qantas.
Economist Matt Robinson from Moody’s Economy.com told The Age that the plunge in full-time jobs was particularly worrying and shows that the stresses of the slowing economy are starting to take their toll.
He says the spike in part-time jobs suggests that many households are struggling and the second money earner in a family is being forced back into work.
It could also mean workers have been forced to switch from full-time to part-time work as employers cut back on costs.
“When you get a huge loss in full-time jobs it means you don’t see any bottom that is forming,” Robinson says.
“It means the economy is still deteriorating.”