More than 48,000 South Australians have lost their jobs in the last two months, with the state’s jobless rate rising to 7.9 per cent in May.

The unemployment rate jumped from 7.2 per cent in the previous month with 11,200 jobs lost in the space of four weeks, according to ABS figures released on Thursday. The rate was 6.3 per cent in March.

South Australia now shares the second-highest figure with Queensland, while the national unemployment rate now stands at 7.1 per cent.

Treasurer Rob Lucas said the figure is the inevitable consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, he said there was a “slim sliver of optimism” with SA’s figures showing a slight increase in the total number of hours worked.

“These numbers make it clear that JobKeeper in some form needs to continue for some severely impacted sectors beyond September,” Mr Lucas told reporters on Thursday.

“We’re hopeful this might be the bottom of the trough as we ease our way upwards and the easing of restrictions will be clear indicators.”

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To help preserve and create jobs during the pandemic, the state government introduced a $1 billion stimulus package and announced $12.9 biilion for infrastructure works on hospitals, schools and roads.

However, Mr Lucas said the only way to fund those projects was to increase state debt, which was estimated to reach $30 billion by the end of the forward estimates period.

“Now is the worst time in the world for us to significantly cut that and reduce further jobs and impact workers and their families.

“It is a significant increase in state debt but the only alternative is to turn off the tap on schools, hospital and road programs with a further reduction of jobs.”

AAP

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