Unemployment Passes 7% With 227,000 Jobs Gone in May

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released unemployment figures for the months of March and April, saying that unemployment jumped 7.1% and 6.4% respectively. 

The ABS also forecasts that another 227,000 jobs were lost in May, due to a twenty-year low participation rate. 

The official figures blew away forecasts by a number of economists that predicted job losses in the area of 100,000. 

Bjorn Jarvis, head of labour statistics at the ABS said that “the drop in employment, of close to a quarter of a million people, added to the 600,000 in April, and brings the total fall to 835,000 people since March.” 

Unemployment Figures Taken From the ABS

The ABS said that the current underutilisation rate in the workforce has increased to 20.2%. 

“The ABS estimates that a combined group of around 2.3 million people – around one-in-five employed people – were affected by either job loss between April and May or had less hours than usual for economic reasons in May,” he added. 

“In two months, the percentage of people aged 15 and over employed in Australia decreased from 62.5 per cent to around 58.7 per cent.” 

“Women continued to be more adversely affected by the labour market deterioration than men. Younger workers have also been particularly impacted,” Jarvis said. 

The ABS says the scope of the loss in jobs is marked by a near two-decade record low of 20.2% in the underutilisation rate. The youth unemployment rate – which takes into account workers between 15 and 24 – jumped 2%, currently sitting at 16.1%. 

Employment Figures Taken From the ABS

Scott Morrison has told reporters today in Canberra upon hearing the statistics that “coronavirus is the real reason people have lost their jobs.” 

“Young people, they have been the most affected in these numbers. But my hope is that, equally as the economy opens up, they will hopefully also be the first to benefit from [the] economy opening up.” 

“As retail doors open again, as food courts open again, as shopping centres are fuller again, we hope to see more of those young people back into work,” Morrison added. 

“It will take us, we estimate, around two years to get back to where we were before it happened, and we think over five years we can seek to catch up to where we were planning to be.” 

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has said that “female employment fell by 118,000 making up 52% of the jobs lost in the month of May. Youth employment fell by 103,000, making up 45% of those jobs lost in May.” 

Shadow Treasurer, Jim Chalmers has criticised the Government’s response, stating that “if they were still in the labour market, the unemployment rate would be more like 11.3%. The unemployment queues are longer than they need to be because the Morrison Government has bungled the JobKeeper program.” 

Chalmers said that the government’s JobKeeper program “left too many people out. They have left too many people behind. And we see that in the numbers today.” 

“They are talking about fast-forwarding people out of work and onto welfare. It makes absolutely no economic sense whatsoever,” he added. 

Gareth Aird, senior economist at the Commonwealth Bank has told the ABC that May figures should mark the low point for employment, considering that JobSeeker payments peaked in late May. 

“We do not believe another 228,000 people lost their jobs in May,” he said. “Instead, we think many people who lost their jobs in April were counted as employed in April, but were not considered employed in May.” 

“In other words, the bulk of the job losses and deterioration in the labour market took place in April, but some of it being accounted for in May.” 

The ABC’s report cites figures from Seek, who says that job advertisements jumped 39.7% in May, however, they remain down more than 50% compared to the same period twelve months ago. 

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