TASMANIA has overtaken Queensland to have the highest unemployment rate in Australia at 8.2 per cent.

Australian Bureau of Statistics employment figures on Thursday showed the state's jobless rate rose last month, up from 7.6 per cent in September.

About 251,600 Tasmanians were employed in October.

That's 12,100 more people back in work than in May, when strict COVID-19 restrictions were in place, but still about 9800 less than February before the pandemic hit, when a record 261,400 Tasmanians were employed.

Last week's State Budget showed unemployment is expected to rise higher to 8.5 per cent this financial year.

State Labor leader Rebecca White said the jobless rate was "appalling" and showed the state government "doesn't have a plan for jobs".

Labor leader Rebecca White. Picture: Nikki Davis-Jones
Labor leader Rebecca White. Picture: Nikki Davis-Jones

"Arguing that we're going to build our way out of this recession doesn't seem to bare fruit when you see the lack of progress on infrastructure projects and the appalling deterioration in our employment data which shows thousands of Tasmanians are out of work," she said.

TasCOSS chief executive Adrienne Picone said the Federal Government's "callous and shortsighted" phasing out of income support payments had compounded the problem.

"We know that looking for work costs money; transport for example is a barrier to employment for many Tasmanians, as is lack of affordable housing close to where jobs are," she said.

"As we rebuild, we must hone in on supporting Tasmanians to access jobs as they become available, as well as providing training in foundational areas like digital skills and digital confidence."

Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Michael Bailey said the unemployment rate increase emphasised the need for payroll tax holidays for business "so we can get the economy going by getting more Tasmanians back into work".

But Finance Minister Michael Ferguson said the unemployment rise was due to an increase in the participation rate, as the actual number of people employed had remained steady since September.

Finance Minister Michael Ferguson. Picture: AAP/ Rob Blakers
Finance Minister Michael Ferguson. Picture: AAP/ Rob Blakers

"The increase in participation has had the effect of increasing the unemployment rate," he said.

But the jobless rate was "a reminder of the need for our massive training and employment boost," Mr Ferguson said.

"The Government understands it's been a challenging year for many Tasmanians, and we are totally focused on giving businesses the confidence they need to offer more employment."

He added the National Skills Commission Vacancy Report released this week found Tasmania had the second highest rebound in job vacancies in the country, growing 7.5 per cent in October, and 17.8 per cent over the year.



Tafe building
Tafe building

LABOR would employ 80 more teachers and 20,000 Tasmanians would be able to access free TAFE courses under a four-year, $62 million plan if it won government.

Opposition Leader Rebecca White on Sunday said the policy was a key component of the party's Jobs Plan.

Ms White said Labor would invest $22.5 million over four years to expand the teaching workforce by 20 per cent, improve regional delivery of courses and align training with industry needs.

A further $40 million would be spent on free TAFE training in areas of critical skills shortages, such as in disability services and aged care, building and construction, and tourism and hospitality.


State Labor leader Rebecca White. Picture: RICHARD JUPE
State Labor leader Rebecca White. Picture: RICHARD JUPE


Ms White said the state budget handed down last Thursday had forecast an unemployment rate of 8.5 per cent, which she said was unacceptable.

"We need to do a better job of supporting people into training so they can get the skills they need to get a job in Tasmania," she said.

"The best way to strengthen the economy is to get people back into work. And we know that the pathway to a good job starts with good training."


TasTafe would be a big winner under Labor’s proposed jobs plan.
TasTafe would be a big winner under Labor’s proposed jobs plan.


Australian Education Union Tasmanian branch TAFE president Simon Bailey welcomed Labor's policy announcement.

"There's no use going out there announcing courses if we actually don't have the staff to run the courses, and that's presently the issue that we face within TAFE itself," he said.

Ms White will release Labor's fully costed Jobs Plan following her budget reply speech in parliament on Tuesday.

Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff accused Labor of playing catch-up on TAFE, saying the government was investing in skills each year and the recent budget included $53 million to boost jobs for apprentices, trainees and youth employees.


Michael Ferguson. Picture: MATT THOMPSON
Michael Ferguson. Picture: MATT THOMPSON


Leader of government business in the House of Assembly, Michael Ferguson, said the state government would continue to outline details of the state budget during parliament this week.

Mr Ferguson talked up the government's four-year, $5 billion infrastructure program, which he said would support about 25,000 jobs and build intergenerational infrastructure.

"This week in Parliament we will also debate legislation which will ensure our businesses are incentivised to hire apprentices and trainees," he said.

"The legislation will allow for the extension of our successful payroll tax rebate scheme and small business grants schemes and broaden these schemes to all industries."






Originally published as Unemployment skyrockets to country's highest