One of the major questions sloshing about in the Budget washup has surrounded Treasurer Wayne Swan’s über-dubious economic growth projections. After days of criticism, Treasury Secretary Ken Henry finally acted on Monday, offering up a spirited defence of Swan’s 4.5% figure by referring to trend data from past recessions.

But as hard as Henry works to protect the government, for as long as the global recession persists, no-one really knows what the real growth figure will be. Precisely the same thing could be said about the not entirely unrelated matter of unemployment.

According to official forecasts, the jobless rate will top 8.5% by 2011 with an extra 200,000 people to avoid the dole queue as a direct result of the government’s desperate attempts to prop up demand. But unfortunately for the Treasurer, these only really amount to half-hearted stabs in the dark.

Meanwhile, the storm surrounding the accuracy of the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Labour Force data has been temporarily quelled by a $15 million Budget funding boost. April’s drop in the jobless rate from 5.7% to 5.3% was ridiculed by the commentariat, with strong suggestions that a pared-back survey meant the 27,000 net jump in full-time positions couldn’t be believed.

As the ABS scrambles to get its act together, the punters have shifted their gaze elsewhere. NT bookmaker Centrebet is now offering odds on what will happen when the May figure is released on 11 June.

As the venerable Adelaide Advertiser reports:

Leading financial bookmaker Centrebet has today released the country’s first market on the next national unemployment figure, with a 5.6 to 5.7 per cent jobless rate as the opening $2.85 favourite!

Meanwhile, SackWatch has gone global after this item from ABC TV’s Newshour with Jim Middleton was broadcast across South East Asia recently. Unfortunately, local audiences were denied the opportunity to witness the Crikey newsroom’s hive of activity so we’ve included the footage here.

While we’re on multimedia, SackWatch has also launched a Twitter account so you can tweet @SackWatch as soon as you hear something.

Check our SackWatch meta-list for the full jobs fallout since early January:

Fairfax Media: Staff at The Age were asked yesterday to volunteer for redundancies with management keen to target 12-14 production personnel, according to insiders. The fresh departures from Spencer Street follow last year’s 550 local lay-offs and chief axeman Brian McCarthy’s recent announcement of a 28% profits plunge. Last week, in New Zealand Fairfax Magazine staff have been forced to take a nine day week, equating to an effective 10% pay cut.

Victorian College of the Arts: Contracts are not being renewed. The School of Film and TV has lost one position so far and there are 12 casual staff already gone in the rest of the College, as revealed by Crikey.

Rockdale Beef: Japanese-owned export abattoir has announced it will cut up to 150 jobs as demand dives.

Ninemsn: 35 employees working on ACP-branded websites are being made redundant on June 30, with the option of reapplying for newly-titled versions of their jobs. If they don’t like it, they can walk, according to insiders.

American Express: 4000 jobs worldwide to be eliminated, with substantial losses expected at its local operation.

National Australia Bank: The Finance Sector Union says that the NAB is reviewing 628 positions for off-shoring after 625 positions were lost off over the past year.

Goodman Group: Struggling property group set to axe 70 staff by the end of this week after striking a refinancing deal.

Fujitsu Australia: 100 positions said to be under threat after WA Police cancelled its IT contract, although this has been denied by the company.

BHP Billiton: Major miner has slashed 240 jobs from its Leinster nickel operation in Western Australia to add to the 3,400 local losses already announced.

Mortgage Choice: Five senior staff members in its head office made redundant, taking the total toll to nine after four executives were sacked last September.

Bradken: 18 staff sacked from its Launceston engineering plant. Its Wodonga steel foundry previously sacked 21 permanent staff.

EDS: 1,000 call centre workers have been ordered to take a pay cut with no guarantees over their future. 500 redundancies have been announced at the firm since November last year.

Timbercorp: Worker entitlements at collapsed managed investment scheme safe but future of 40 staff a “month to month proposition”, according to administrators.

Great Southern: Future of eight full-time employees and up to 80 contract staff under a cloud following the company’s collapse last week.

The Queensland public service: Said to be terminating all casual staff by the end of the financial year.

The WA public service: 5,000 jobs in the firing line after Treasurer Troy Buswell wielded the State Budget axe, according to the CPSU.

Skilled workers: 43,000 skilled workers have joined the ranks of the unemployed this year, with skilled unemployment rising 48.2% in the March quarter, according to a survey.

Ausenco: Troubled engineering has laid off more office staff, with 50 professionals leaving from Brisbane and Perth offices. According to a tipster, the Perth office “does not have a single project in detailed design”, and is “surviving on feasibility studies and other work on the never-never”.

Telstra: New chief David Thodey is sharpening his knife to fulfill Sol Trujillo’s promise to lay-off of 12,000 workers. “I have never known such a frenzied numbers culling in all of my 44 years with Telstra”, one employee told Crikey.

CMC: Cairns-based building company has stopped work on 11 of its building sites — 8 in Cairns and 3 in Townsville — with potentially hundreds of contractors and staff out of work.

Riviera: Remaining 550 workers on tenterhooks as a buyer is sought for the collapsed luxury boat builder. Riviera employed around 850 permanent employees at its peak before the bad times hit.

Special George Brandis-initiated Budget fall-out sub-section:

Customs and Border Protection: set to lose 220 staff.

Australian Crime Commission: 7 per cent of its staff under threat.

Federal magistrates’ court: More than 130 jobs could go.

Federal Attorney-General’s department: Will lose 44 positions in the next year through natural attrition.

Special SackWatch legal layoffs sub-section:

TressCox Lawyers: “At least a dozen” staff laid off.

Minter Ellison: 35 employees made redundant, including 11 lawyers and 24 support staff from its Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane offices.

Thomson Playford Cutlers: laid off 25 staff in December.

Blake Dawson: has cut 89 staff so far this year.

Corrs Chambers Westgarth: has cut around 50 staff.

Deacons: has hived off about 45 eagles.

Gadens: Has refused to respond to rumours about redundancies, with a recent “comings and goings” routine, according to a Gadens spinner.

DLA Phillips Fox: has lost 20 staff with chief Tony Crawford announcing he will step down after 30 years.

HWL Ebsworth: Six lawyers, two graduates, three property paralegals and six personal assistants gone.

Hicksons Lawyers: Eight staff retrenched.

Herbert Geer: Confirmed that it has made “two or three” redundancies.

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