Victorian employment losses slowing: ABS

The rate at which locked-down Victoria is losing jobs is slowing, but again dragged down the national total, new figures show.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics weekly payrolls report revealed the number of jobs across Australia fell by 0.4 per cent over the month to August 22.

But payrolls in Victoria fell two per cent in that period while the rest of the nation saw a modest 0.1 per cent rise in jobs.

“While payroll jobs continued to fall in Victoria into the third week of August, it was at a slower rate than earlier in the month,” ABS head of labour statistics at Bjorn Jarvis said.

Since mid-March when the virus began to take hold in Australia, national payrolls are down 4.2 per cent, while they are 7.9 per cent lower in Victoria.

Payroll jobs in the accommodation and food services and the arts and recreation services industries have suffered the largest losses during the COVID-19 period.

The payrolls report is a special publication that gives a more frequent guide of the impact of COVID-19 on the jobs market.

The latest National Australia Bank business survey also pointed to a weakening employment outlook.

Its business conditions index fell six points to minus six points in August, unwinding most of the previous month’s gain.

NAB Group chief economist Alan Oster said the decline was led by a drop in its employment index, suggesting while the Australian economy is generally starting to open up, the labour market is still in decline.

The business confidence index made only a modest six-point improvement to an index of minus eight points after falling sharply in July, indicating sentiment still remains fragile.

Mr Oster said given the sheer magnitude of the fall in economic activity in the June quarter, which confirmed Australia is suffering its first recession in decades, and the subsequent lockdowns in Victoria, the recovery will likely be protracted.

This will also result in a further rise in the unemployment rate.

“Policy makers have provided unprecedented support but we think there will need to be more,” Mr Oster said.

“This would help businesses and the economy recover more quickly and the focus can again return to growth.”

Extra support is expected to be unveiled in the October 6 federal budget.

Still, Australians appear to have taken confirmation of the country’s first recession since the early 1990s in their stride.

The weekly ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index rose one per cent, with respondents optimistic about future economic conditions, which jumped 4.1 per cent.

But ANZ head of Australian economics David Plank is quick to point out the survey was carried out before the Victorian government announced it was extending its harsh coronavirus lockdown.

“Even taking this into account, the uptick in confidence comes as a positive surprise,” Mr Plank said.

He felt the jump in “future economic conditions” may indicate that a number of people think the economic situation is close to the bottom.

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