The companies behind Western Australia’s major resources projects are being flooded with job applications as the state’s unemployment rate continues to surge higher.
Unemployment in the resources-driven WA economy jumped from 5.2 per cent in January to 5.9 per cent in February, its highest level in a decade.
That equates to another 11,200 West Australians looking for work in the month just ended, taking the number of unemployed to 84,300.
A recent downturn in mining investment has resulted in widespread job losses, with some major contracting companies such as Forge Group having to shut their doors.
After a decade-long period of low unemployment, Western Australia’s jobless rate has almost reached the national average of 6.0 per cent.
Just five months ago, WA’s unemployment rate was 4.2 per cent.
It has overtaken NSW and is more than two and a half times higher than the 2.3 per cent recorded in October 2008 at the height of the WA skills shortage.
Less than two years ago, billionaire Gina Rinehart secured approval to import more than 1700 workers for her $10 billion Roy Hill iron-ore project in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.
But Roy Hill chief executive Barry Fitzgerald this week said there had been a dramatic turnaround in the labour market in recent months, with more than 5500 people applying for jobs with Roy Hill or submitting expressions of interest since December 2013.
“We are seeing something like 600 people applying for one particular style of job,” Mr Fitzgerald said at an industry conference.
“It’s a mixed blessing. It’s probably good for us, but very unfortunate for those on the other side.”
Despite the large task of sifting through resumes, he said the company was treating every application professionally.
“We are now faced with the problem of how to manage the number of applicants and expressions of interest we have for people who are seeking an opportunity with Roy Hill in the construction or operations phase,” he said.
The recent collapse of contractor Forge Group had put pressure on contractors, Mr Fitzgerald added. Around 1500 Forge Group employees were sacked after the Perth-based firm collapsed in February, leaving around $500 million in debts.
The last time unemployment reached 5.9 per cent in WA was in December 2003.