CANBERRA: South Australia’s unemployment rate has continued its marked improvement, dropping to the lowest rate it has been since 2012. Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show the state’s seasonally adjusted employment rate has plummeted by 0.5 percentage points to 5.7 per cent in August, its lowest since November 2012. The drop comes on top of a 0.4 percentage points decrease in the unemployment rate in July’s figures. It means SA now has the equal second-best unemployment rate of all the states, behind only NSW (5.0 per cent). It also places SA just 0.1 per cent behind the national unemployment rate of 5.6 per cent.
SA’s unemployment rate dropped slightly in the more reliable trend terms, decreasing 0.2 per cent to 6.1 per cent — but that is still the equal highest in the nation. Just over 14,000 more South Australians are employed now than they were 12 months ago, leaving Employment Minister Kyam Maher cautiously optimistic but wary of the impact the October 20 closure of Elizabeth’s Holden plant could have on the economy. The positive news also came as Myer announced its Colonnades Shopping Centre store would be one of three to close across the country when its lease expires in 2020. “We are seeing bright spots in the SA economy but we are also facing challenges,” Mr Maher said. “We know with the closure of Holden there is more to be done and that’s exactly why we need to continue with the programs we’ve started and keep working with businesses.” Drakes Supermarket owner Roger Drake said the figures were great news for SA but “big, bold decisions” were required to take the state to the next level. “We’ve got to continue pushing SA. Here’s the best state in Australia and we’ve got to market that to big companies and incentivise them to set up headquarters here,” he said. “If you tie them in to employ a certain number of people for a set amount of time and really incentivise them to come here — that’s the sort of decisions we need to make.” Mr Drake said it remained “really tough” in the food game but insisted championing local products — like its new range of Thomas Farms ready to eat meals — was the way forward. “We’re seeing a real shift to local products. Instead of getting something from interstate, if they’re getting an SA product we’re keeping jobs in the state,” he said.
Opposition employment spokesman Corey Wingard welcomed the drop in the headline employment figure, but said the nation-topping youth unemployment and trend rates remained a serious concern. “The Liberals are committed to lowering costs for businesses so that we can drive employment growth at a time when the South Australian economy desperately needs investment and jobs,” he said. Nationally, about 22,000 more people were in full-time employment in August, while part-time employment increased by 6000. The national seasonally adjusted total number of new jobs rose by 54,200. “Full-time employment has now increased by around 253,000 persons since August 2016, and makes up the majority of the 307,000 person increase in employment over the period,” said ABS chief economist Bruce Hockman.