This graph from Citibank's Paul Brennan tells the story
Here's my take:
AUSTRALIANS are being asked to prepare for higher unemployment after 15,600 lost their jobs in November - 3,600 in Victoria.
The news comes as China reveals a big slump in both its exports and imports, described by analysts as a "disaster" for Australia.
Although the November downturn in jobs is only the third monthly downturn this year, the trend rate of job growth has fallen to its slowest since Australia's commodities boom began.
Employment Minister Julia Gillard has warned that there is worse is to come...
"The Government has always said that Australia won't be immune from the global financial crisis and it will affect our lives here including jobs here," she said.
"We said to the Australian people that in these difficult times we do expect unemployment to rise."
Australia's unemployment rate had edged up from a low of 3.9 per cent in February to 4.3 per cent in October and increased to 4.4 per cent in November.
Leading bank economists are forecasting almost no growth in jobs in the year ahead, and a rate of 6.4 per cent by 2010.
Investment bank JP Morgan is tipping a 9 per cent by 2010, an outcome it says is not as bad as in Australia's last two recessions in which the unemployment rate hit double figures.
ABN AMRO economist Kieran Davies said the unemployment dam was about to break. "Virtually all the forward indicators of employment are heading south. Retail sales have been basically flat all year, building approvals are falling in a hole, business confidence has plummeted, and hiring intentions have fallen off a cliff," he said.
Ms Gillard described the November increase in unemployment as "slight" and said it was welcome given the "very difficult times".
Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull backed her saying he was pleased to see that unemployment levels were "lower than might have been expected".
As Australia's Rio Tinto announced Wednesday that it was cutting 14,000 mining jobs worldwide, China revealed that both its exports and imports had nosedived, with imports sliding 18 per cent over the year, the worst result in almost two decades.
"The world is no longer buying Chinese made goods with the gusto of a year ago so China no longer has any requirement to import raw materials to the extent it did a year ago too," said TD Securities global strategist Stephen Koukoulas.
"Indeed, the inventory of raw material in China suggests future demand and prices will be extremely low. For Australia, this news is extremely disconcerting.
"With Australia probably already in recession, a year of weakness from China would spell almost certain disaster."
The Melbourne Institute consumer survey suggests that inflation had evaporated as a public concern with fewer than half of the consumers surveyed expecting prices to rise in the year ahead.
Although the latest official inflation reading was 5.0 per cent in the September quarter, consumers believe that it has already halved to be 2.5 per cent in the year to December, back well within the Reserve Bank's 2 to 3 per cent target zone.