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July 9, 2009    

Australia’s unemployment rate hits six-year high of 5.8%

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by Kay Murchie

The International Monetary Fund recently singled Australia out as the strongest performing economy in the developed world but it seems the economy is not immune from rising unemployment.

While the increase in unemployment for the month of June was less than expected, the rate has still hit a six-year high of 5.8% in June, rising from 5.7% the previous month, according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Economists had expected the rate to increase to 5.9%.

The Australian economy has yet to fall into a recession but Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard said: “We still have a long and rocky road ahead of us as result of the global recession“, adding that the economy is not “immune from the effects of the global recession.”

Earlier this week, the Board of the Reserve Bank of Australia elected to retain interest rates at 3%. Australia’s interest rates have been at 3% since a cut made in April, and are significantly lower than in the recent past.

Earlier this year, the Australian Government approved an AUS$42 billion (£20 billion) stimulus package, designed to help the country weather the economic downturn.

The plan involves for AUS28.8 billion to be set aside for schools, housing and roads, while the remaining funds will provide a cash boost to low and middle-income earners.

It was also hoped the plan would help support and sustain up to 90,000 jobs over the next two years.

So far this has enabled Australia to avoid falling into recession.

However, despite efforts by the Government, there are fears that the unemployment rate could reach 8.5% by mid-2011.

Around the world, the US unemployment rate is currently at 9.5% (a 26-year high), while the euro zone’s unemployment is at 9.5%. Finally, the UK recently announced its unemployment rate stands at 7.2%.

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