State loses 30,000 jobs in one month

VICTORIA'S unemployment rate has jumped to the highest level since the global financial crisis, with the loss of 30,000 jobs from the state economy in January.

After warnings from the business community about the outlook for the construction sector, figures from the Bureau of Statistics showed the state unemployment rate increased to 6.1 per cent in January from 5.6 per cent at the end of last year. It was the highest level since August 2009, when the state was still being buffeted following the global financial crisis. Although the monthly seasonally adjusted figures tend to be volatile, Victoria's jobless rate has been trending higher for the past year.

Using the bureau's more stable trend figures, Victoria's unemployment rate increased from 5.4 per cent to 5.8 per cent over the 12 months to January, with the ranks of the jobless swelling by 15,200.

Premier Ted Baillieu cautioned that the monthly figures were volatile, but warned the state economy was facing significant challenges, singling out the high dollar, which erodes the competitiveness of local producers compared with foreign rivals, the federal carbon tax and a raft of decisions by the federal government, including a failure to press ahead with an inquiry into construction costs.

The figures follow warnings in Fairfax Media that large building companies are preparing to shed thousands of jobs as the pipeline of construction work slows. Over the year to the September quarter of last year, total government investment - including federal, state and local - fell 19 per cent. It was the biggest drop in the nation, and compared with an Australia-wide fall of 8 per cent.

The investment fall, which is roughly two-thirds made up of state spending, raises questions about claims of a record investment spend.

Opposition employment spokesman Tim Pallas said the January jobs drop in Victoria was equivalent to almost 1000 fewer Victorians in work each day, compared with an extra 250 people employed each day in New South Wales.

''Victoria is coming to a standstill, with thousands of construction jobs lost and thousands more at risk as big infrastructure jobs finish, with no future plans by the Baillieu government for major projects,'' he said.

Nationally, the unemployment rate remained stable at 5.4 per cent.

This story State loses 30,000 jobs in one month first appeared on The Age.