Jobless rate inched higher before lockdown

Australia’s unemployment rate rose by 0.1 of a percentage point in March, with the data was collected before widespread coronavirus restrictions that left thousands unemployed.

The unemployment rate inched higher to 5.2 per cent following the Australian Bureau of Statistics survey of about 50,000 people in the first two weeks of March.

Economists say the March fall in employment could be the tip of the iceberg as restrictions on venues such as pubs, clubs, restaurants and cafes were not imposed until the second half of the month, meaning the April data will be worse.

Treasury has forecast the economic shock of the virus will cause Australia’s unemployment rate to hit 10 per cent in the June quarter, meaning 1.4 million people will be out of work.

Treasury said the rate could have tripled to 15 per cent if not for the government’s $130 billion JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme.

The government has pledged $320 billion in measures to help the economy overcome the virus, representing 16.4 per cent of gross domestic product.

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