Friday, April 20, 2012
Bureau of Statistics figures show Melbourne suffered most of the sharp rise in Victoria's unemployment in the year to March. It does not publish seasonally adjusted figures for cities, but if it did, Melbourne's seasonally adjusted unemployment would have risen from 4.1 per cent to 5.8 per cent.
Only Tasmania took a bigger hit. Even using quarterly averages to smooth out the volatile monthly data, its unemployment rate climbed from 6.2 per cent to 7.4 per cent. The National Australia Bank survey found business conditions in Tasmania are by far the worst in the country.
Regional Victoria also took a hit in the past year, but only half as severe as Melbourne. Unemployment rose a bit in Sydney, but no other big city went backwards, and unemployment fell sharply in regional Western Australia, to be just 2.4 per cent in the outback, mining's home.
Australia's economy is likely to get increasingly bipolar over the next year, as federal and state budget cuts and the high dollar hurt the south-east, while the mining states are propelled ahead by the mining boom.
New figures show seasonally adjusted imports shot up 11 per cent in March, almost entirely in oil and machinery. Nearly all the growth in imports in the past year was in WA, where imports almost doubled, whereas imports into Victoria fell.
The NAB's quarterly business survey tells a similar story. Confidence and activity are running high in the west, but spluttering along in most states, and falling fast in Tasmania.
Nationwide, slightly more companies predict good times than bad times for the June quarter with a firmer balance predicting good times over the next year. Trading and profits are expected to improve, though with little growth in jobs.
But NAB points out that companies expected similar gains in the March quarter, yet ended up disappointed. The survey findings suggest that job growth in the next year, as in the past year, will be mostly in WA and Queensland.
Manufacturing is the most depressed sector. Half the mining companies surveyed expect to lift employment in the current quarter, and none plan to cut jobs. But only 10 per cent of manufacturers plan to increase hiring, while 29 per cent are planning job cuts.
Manufacturing plants are working at only 75 per cent of capacity, and 43 per cent of manufacturers say profits are poor.