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WA jobless rate soars but Barnett defiant

AAP logoAAP 15/12/2016 Greg Roberts

A defiant WA Premier Colin Barnett has rejected stinging criticisms in the face of a 15-year spike in unemployment, the latest in a series of worrying signs for the state's economy with an election looming.

Western Australia's jobless rate for November, seasonally adjusted, was 6.9 per cent. That compares to a national figure of 5.7 per cent, up from 5.6 per cent.

At the same time, it was at least replaced as the state with the highest unemployment numbers after South Australia's rate jumped to seven per cent.

November also brought an increase in full time workers for the first time in nearly two years.

"They are disappointing figures to me, of great concern to me for those people who are struggling but there are some good signs there in the growth in employment itself in full-time jobs," Mr Barnett told reporters on Thursday.

WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Deidre Willmot, who is pushing for the removal of payroll tax for small and medium size businesses to stimulate the economy, described the figures as woeful.

Mr Barnett said he didn't share her view.

"I know that it is perhaps not much comfort to those who haven't got a job but I have sensed since around October that the economy in Western Australia has improved," he said.

"It is largely anecdotal but it is what I hear from businesspeople in a whole range of industries."

He said the government's multi-billion dollar projects were creating jobs such as the new stadium and Elizabeth Quay commercial area.

He said the economy was inherently strong, led by the still dominant mining and petroleum industries and growing agriculture, tourism, education and high-end manufacturing sectors.

Geoff Ahearn, an accountant, has had a similar experience to many Perth workers, having enjoyed a good salary during the mining boom but unable to get work this year after returning from a working holiday in China.

He recently found unrelated part-time employment with a labour hire firm.

"It was tough ... the fact my wife Andrea was working was a huge bonus but if I was single I would have been stressed to the max doing anything to earn an income," he told AAP.

"I didn't wonder whether I would ever get a job but whether I was ever going to get a job at the level I was used to."

State opposition leader Mark McGowan said the unemployment figures were catastrophic.

"The government has its head in the sand," he told reporters.

"Mr Barnett thinks everything is ok - it is clearly not ok. Our economy is in recession."

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