13 Mar 2009

Unemployment rate hits four-year high

9:35 pm on 13 March 2009

The jobless rate in Australia is now at a four-year high.

The Australian newspaper reports almost 600,000 people are jobless.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Thursday that the rate reached 5.2% in February, up from 4.8% the previous month.

About 53,800 jobs were lost in February but the fall was offset by 55,600 more part-time jobs.

There was also a sharp fall in full-time jobs, pointing to fewer hours being worked and lower incomes.

Unemployment rate previously reached a 33-year low of 3.9% in February 2008, but has moved steadily higher since then.

The federal government has forecast the rate of unemployment will reach 5.5% by June this year and 7% by June 2010.

NSW and South Australia have the highest rate at 5.8%, followed by Victoria at 5.6%.

Queensland (4.5%), Western Australia (4.2%) and Tasmania (4.5%) are below the national average.

The Australian economy went backwards in the last quarter by 0.5% and annual growth has slowed to 0.3%.