Jobless rate jumps to 6 per cent

BALLARAT'S unemployment rate has jumped to 6 per cent since last December.

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show the number of people on unemployment benefits has risen 1.7 per cent from December's figure of 4.3 per cent.

Bendigo also recorded a rise from 6 to 6.9 per cent but Geelong reported a drop from 5.7 per cent to 5 per cent.

Ballarat West MP Sharon Knight said the rise in unemployment highlighted the state government's need to produce a jobs plan.

"The number of people in our region looking for work has risen by 1.7 per cent in just the last month. That's an extra 1600 people who are looking for a job," Ms Knight said.

"Since the Liberal government was sworn in, unemployment has risen across Victoria, including here in Ballarat.

"Victoria is losing jobs every day but Premier Denis Napthine still doesn't have a jobs plan.

"Only Victoria Labor has a jobs plan that will support job creation in regional Victoria."

But state treasurer Michael O'Brien said employment in regional Victoria was the strongest of all the states over the December quarter, with 22,800 jobs created.

"While there is softness in the national economy, today's figures demonstrate the Victorian coalition government's economic strategy is continuing to support growth right across Victoria," Mr O'Brien said.

"Victoria's regional unemployment rate of 5.4 per cent remains well below the Australian regional average of 5.9 per cent and is significantly stronger than the rate of 6.3 per cent when Labor left office in November 2010.

"The Coalition government's strong budget management in challenging economic times means that we can better fund projects that lead to jobs growth in Victoria's regions."

fiona.henderson@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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