Australian Jobless Rate Climbs to 4-Year High of 5.2%

Australia’s jobless rate rose in February to the highest in four years as companies fired full- time workers, adding to signs the nation may be in its first recession in almost two decades., Bloomberg 3/11/2009 6:13:44 PM

The unemployment rate increased to 5.2 percent from 4.8 percent in January, the statistics bureau said in Sydney today. The number of people employed rose 1,800 on extra part-time positions.

Pacific Brands Ltd., Australia’s biggest underwear maker, and miners including BHP Billiton Ltd. are among companies firing workers as consumers cut spending and the global financial crisis deepens. To curb job losses, the government will spend A$42 billion ($27 billion) on cash handouts to households and infrastructure. The central bank last month cut its benchmark lending rate to a 45-year low of 3.25 percent.

The number of full-time jobs in Australia dropped 53,800 in February and part-time employment increased 55,600. Economists expected total job losses of 20,000.

The deepening global recession is eroding demand for resources from Australia, the world’s biggest shipper of coal and iron ore, and forcing mining companies to sack workers and cut costs.

BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining company, said in January it will cut 3,400 jobs in Australia as it shuts a nickel mine, closes part of a refinery and reduces coking coal output by as much as 15 percent.

More than half of Australia’s mining and resource companies will fire staff in the next 12 months after the economy unexpectedly shrank in the fourth quarter for the first time in eight years, according to a survey of 118 companies released this week by the Australian Mines and Metals Association.

Australian Jobless Rate Climbs to 4-Year High of 5.2%