Jobless hits 4.6pc as lockdowns cancel work for 280,000

Employment fell by 138,000 in September, bringing to more than 280,000 the number of positions vacated during recent lockdowns in NSW and Victoria, while the overall jobless rate ticked up slightly to 4.6 per cent.

There are now more than 110,000 fewer people employed than just prior to the start of the COVID-19 crisis in early 2020, however this figure is likely to bounce back strongly now that restrictions are starting ease.

The biggest jobs fall was in Victoria – down 123,000 – as the latest Bureau of Statistics labour force survey captured the full effect of the state’s hard lockdown.

A further 25,000 positions were lost in NSW, which followed a fall of 173,000 in August; though this was offset by a 31,000 increase in Queensland.

The participation rate fell 0.7 percentage points to 64.5 per cent in September, the third consecutive monthly fall from a near historical high in June when the economy was bouncing back before the delta variant.

The significant fall in the participation rate was due to the way job losses are being recorded. Because people aren’t looking for work during lockdowns they count as outside the labour force rather than being unemployed.

In September, NSW and the ACT both recorded their lowest participation rates since the pandemic began. Victoria’s participation rate also fell but remained above the previous low during the second lockdown last year.

“Over the past three months, participation in the labour force has fallen by over 330,000 people, with employment falling by 281,000 people and unemployment falling by 53,000 people,” ABS head of labour statistics Bjorn Jarvis said.

“Beyond people losing their jobs, or working reduced or no hours, we continue to see how challenging it is for people without work to remain active within the labour market during lockdowns.”

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