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AAP

2013-02-21

Three major Australian companies have announced nearly 1,200 job cuts between them on just one day, as weak earnings force businesses to focus on driving down costs and adapt to changing markets.

Telstra said on Thursday it would cut 648 jobs from its struggling Sensis business - a division that has suffered massive revenue falls as demand for its key White Pages and Yellow Pages directories plummets.

Gas and electricity player Origin Energy announced it will cut an additional 350 jobs, in addition to 500 already flagged, during 2013 as it faces falling profits.

And 200 workers will be sacked from Iluka, a miner of mineral sands used in high-tech metals and paint pigments, after weak market conditions forced a 33 per cent slide in full year profit.

The job cuts drew sympathy from federal Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten, who sought to reassure Sensis workers they would find new work.

"The labour market for skilled workers is still reasonably tight," Mr Shorten said.

In a grim day for many workers, liquidators were also appointed to store-fitout business ONE Group Retail Holdings, placing the jobs of 170 people at risk.

Unemployment in Australia is tipped to rise from its current level of 5.4 per cent to around 5.6 per cent during 2013.

In a report released on Thursday, insolvency firm Taylor Woodings said 2012 had been one of the toughest years on record for company collapses and 2013 was expected to remain challenging.

Yet CommSec economist Savanth Sebastian cautioned that high-profile job losses such as the Sensis sackings and a series of cuts at banks and stockbroking firms during 2012 distracted from the underlying strength of the economy.

"It's certainly a mixed picture for the labour market but it is not a substantial weakness," Mr Sebastian said.

"It would surprise most Australians that we added just over 150,000 jobs in 2012."

Mr Sebastian said some turnaround in the labour market was expected in the second half of the year as consumer confidence picked up, boosting spending and demand.

Peter Trute, AAP Senior Finance Writer