Newly-released statistics reveal Australia is experiencing booming demand for skilled workers, with applications for Australia work permits at their highest level since the economic downturn.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) statistics show 4,200 applications for the 457 visa in April 2011.

The 457 visa allows Australian companies to sponsor skilled workers on temporary contracts. A total of 42,872 visas have been granted so far in the 2010/11 financial year, already 4000 more than the 2009/10 year. The figures for primary visa grants are 37 per cent higher than the same time last year.

A DIAC spokesperson said the stronger economy was responsible for the growth. “The increase can be attributed to an improved economic environment and increasing employer demand for overseas workers to fill skills vacancies,”  the spokesperson said.

The rise of trade workers and technicians entering Australia was even higher with 457 visa applications up 70 per cent compared with the same time last year.

DIAC also provided statistics that indicate a faster processing times for visas. The average processing time of 22 days was 30 per cent lower than five years ago.