1304.5 - Stats Talk WA, Sep 2009  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 23/09/2009   
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Situations Vacant
Western Australian Statistical Indicators
(cat. no. 1367.5)

In the last year, Western Australia has experienced both its lowest unemployment rate and fastest increase in unemployment since records began.

Despite worsening global financial conditions, WA continued to benefit from the resources boom until late 2008. After falling to 2.7% last September, the unemployment rate has climbed steadily, exceeding 5% for the first time in almost 5 years in May 2009.

Further jumps in June and July brought the trend rate up to 5.5%, though well below the rates for Australia (5.9%) and most OECD countries. Youth unemployment also remains below that of other Australian states and territories.

Unemployed Man

On The Dole?
The heaviest job losses in the 6 months to May occurred in mining, mining-related services and agriculture. In the May quarter, an estimated 52,000 people were directly employed in the mining industry, almost 20,000 fewer than in the November quarter 2008.

Over the same period, the numbers employed in Professional, scientific and technical services fell by 6,000. A substantial proportion of these job losses appears to be due to the contraction in the mining industry.

In October 2008, it was estimated that about 40% of people employed in Professional, scientific and technical services in WA were working in a mining support activity/operation or contracted to the mining industry.

Off The Dole?
Job gains have occurred in some industries. The 6 months to May saw a significant increase in numbers employed in Retail trade; and Health care and social assistance. These industries together accounted for a quarter of the workforce in May 2009 and about 44% of all jobs gained in the previous 6 months. Smaller job gains occurred in Public Administration and safety; and Education and training.

Rising employment in health, vocational training and social welfare services suggests the community need for such services has grown, particularly among families experiencing unemployment, reduced working hours or housing disadvantage due to the global financial crisis.

In the 6 months to May, the proportion of part-time workers (those working less than 35 hours a week) rose from 27% to 29% while the average weekly hours worked by employees fell to 34.5 hours.

Significant increases in the proportion of part-time workers occurred in Professional, scientific and technical services; in Transport, postal and warehousing and (possibly due to normal seasonal influences) Agriculture, forestry and fishing.

Two industries with a very large component (over 50%) of part-time workers are Retail trade; and Accommodation and food services. These industries saw a small proportional increase (around 1 percentage point) in part-time jobs in the 6 months to May. However, their numerical contribution to the part-time workforce was even more significant: of the estimated 344,000 part-time workers at May 2009, about 34,000 (10%) were in Accommodation and food services while 74,000 (22%) were in Retail trade.

The increase in part-time workers did not occur across all industries. Health, welfare and community service-oriented industries saw a decrease, perhaps again reflecting the community’s greater need for services during the financial downturn.

For more analysis of recent employment trends and longer-term changes in the structure of the state’s employed population, see the feature article in Western Australian Statistical Indicators June 2009 (cat. no. 1367.5).