The worst set of employment figures on record is not an ideal backdrop for the Morrison government to woo voters in the marginal seat of Eden-Monaro.
The economic damage caused by coronavirus finally hit home when Thursday’s monthly jobs figures showed nearly 600,000 people were sacked in April.
It was by far the biggest number lost in one month on record, the previous being a relatively modest 75,000.
The prime minister warned job figures will get worse as a result of businesses shutting their doors to shield people from the pandemic.
The unemployment rate recorded its biggest one-month jump on record, spiking to 6.2 per cent from 5.2 in March, albeit a smaller rise than economists had been expecting.
This was the highest unemployment rate since July 2015.
Treasury is predicting the rate will hit 10 per cent in the June quarter.
However, the department is also forecasting that some 850,000 people will be back in the workforce once all three stages of virus restrictions are lifted.
Voters in the NSW seat of Eden-Monaro will soon head to the polls in a by-election caused by the resignation of the sitting member.
A new poll shows very few voters in Eden-Monaro (just 3.7 per cent) share Scott Morrison’s view the economy will “snap back” once the pandemic has passed.
Almost two-thirds of the electorate in the Australia Institute survey believe the economy will have improved from where it is now in six months’ time, but still be worse than it was last year.
“This research has shown that there is considerable pessimism in the electorate surrounding the economic recovery from COVID-19,” the institute’s executive director Ben Oquist said.
“The research also shows that there is a clear expectation amongst voters (54 per cent) that the COVID economic recovery will have to be led by government, not business.”
The government is spending some $320 billion in support measures during the crisis, including the JobKeeper and JobSeeker programs.
Mr Morrison says some six million people are benefiting from the $1500 per fortnight JobKeeper wage subsidy.
The prime minister has repeatedly emphasised that these schemes have been legislated for six months and will not be extended.
He has also stressed the $1100 per fortnight JobSeeker payment will revert to its former level of $40 per day.
A separate survey commissioned by the Institute of Public Affairs found four in five people believe reducing unemployment caused by the lockdown will be the most important part of the economic recovery.
“The only way to have a truly ‘COVID-safe’ economy is one in which every Australian who wants work can find it. No subsidy or welfare payment can match the dignity of work,” IPA director of policy Gideon Rozner said.
“The soaring unemployment rate in Australia will turn into a terrible humanitarian crisis if state governments do not take decisive action to reopen the Australian economy now.”