A new survey from the Australian Institute of Geoscientists showed unemployment amongst the 666 respondents was 15.5% at the end of December, 2% higher than the rate at the end of September.
Underemployment was also up from 15.4% to 16.9%, with the combined underemployment and unemployment rate of 32.4% the second highest on record.
“The increase in unemployment amongst Australia’s geoscientists in the final quarter of 2014 will be seen as very disheartening by many in the profession,” AIG president Wayne Spilsbury said.
“The employment downturn, since it peaked at the end of 2013, has shown little sign of improvement whereas the Global Financial Crisis in 2008 to 2009 was a short, sharp event.”
The survey showed 12.2% of unemployed geoscientists lost their jobs in the previous three months, while almost 40% had been unemployed for more than a year.
More than 66% of unemployed and underemployed geoscientists were not confident of returning to full time work within 12 months and 6% were seeking alternative roles outside their profession.
The new data also showed self-employed geoscientists were doing it tough, with more than a third unable to secure more than 10% of their desired workload.
Were these self-employed geoscientists to be considered essentially unemployed, the overall unemployment rate would be a staggering 21.3% – more than one in every five geoscientists in Australia today.
That rate was up from 18% in the September quarter.
Breaking down the nation’s various mining regions, Western Australia had the highest unemployment rate at 15.7% while Queensland came second at 14.4%.
The figures are in stark contrast to the 1.7% and 1.1% recorded in June 2011.
Elsewhere, New South Wales recorded an unemployment rate of 11.4% and South Australia came in at 6.8%.
Spilsbury said the grim figures were a reflection of the wide downturn in mining, and an early warning sign of fewer mineral discoveries in the future.
“We continue to see Australian-listed, junior exploration and mining companies that are critically undercapitalised, finding it difficult to attract new investment to both optimise the value of existing, known resources and to make new discoveries,” he said.
“Promised initiatives by federal and state governments to promote exploration appear to be having little impact on the state of the mining and energy production industries.
“The perfect storm for exploration and mining highlighted by previous recent survey results shows no signs of abating.”