• Jobs & Services Australia

Almost a million Australians out of work due to coronavirus; RBA tips economy to take 10pc hit

Almost 1 million Australians have lost their jobs since social-distancing measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 ramped up, new official ABS data suggests, while the Reserve Bank expects the economy to take a 10 per cent hit.

Key points:

  • The ABS says the number of jobs in Australia fell by 7.5 per cent between March 14 and April 18

  • Jobs in accommodation and food services slumped by a third, while 27 per cent of arts and recreation jobs went

  • The job losses have been most severe in Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia

Analysing payroll data from the tax office, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) found the number of jobs slumped by 7.5 per cent between March 14 and April 18.

The data only measures those workers on the payroll of their employer, of which there are about 10 million in Australia.

Some of the workers captured in the payroll data may also have two or more jobs, meaning that the ABS estimates that around 650-700,000 employed people have lost work since mid-March.

However, if the impact has been similar for those working off-payroll — such as business owners, independent contractors and other self-employed people — it means up to a million out of the 13 million Australians who were working in mid-March no longer are.

Citi economist Joshua Williamson comes up with a slightly lower estimate for recent job losses based on the ABS data.

"This data is not directly applicable to the official labour force series," he noted.

"A very raw interpretation of the change in jobs would imply 856,000 job losses and a jump in the unemployment rate to 11 per cent in April."

The official ABS unemployment estimate for April will be released on May 14. The last figures for March showed there were 713,000 unemployed Australians before coronavirus hit hard, meaning the ranks of jobless could swell to 1.7 million in the next set of numbers.

Given that access to the JobKeeper scheme requires employers to keep paying their staff before being paid by the ATO, these ABS figures are reflective only of those who are unemployed, not those whose wages are being subsidised by the Federal Government.

On Tuesday afternoon Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed about a million Australians were on the JobSeeker payment, with more than 5 million receiving JobKeeper to stay in employment.

This does not include temporary visa holders who are ineligible for either payment, while casuals who have been with their employer less than 12 months cannot receive JobKeeper.

Including those who will receive JobKeeper but will not be working, the latest Treasury estimates forecast more than 1.5 million Australians to be out of work over the first half of this year.

Job losses vary widely by age, sex, location and industry

Worryingly, the fall in job numbers was getting steeper, not reducing, in mid-April.

"Looking at the week-to-week changes, the decrease in the number of jobs in the week ending 18 April was 1.5 per cent, which was larger than the 0.3 per cent decrease in week ending 11 April 2020," the bureau's head of labour statistics Bjorn Jarvis observed.

Since the JobKeeper program was announced on March 30, many employers have raised concerns with the scheme, meaning a large proportion of those that expressed interest did not ultimately sign up.

The ABS said job losses were heaviest in accommodation and food services, where more than one-third of workers lost employment, followed by arts and recreation services where 27 per cent of staff found themselves out of work.

Other sectors hard hit by job losses were "other services" (12 per cent), real estate services (11 per cent), administration and support (10 per cent) and, perhaps surprisingly, agriculture, forestry and fisheries (9.5 per cent).

Those aged between 20-29 and over 70 were the worst affected by the job cuts in the accommodation and food services sector, with more than 40 per cent losing work.

Given the prevalence of young people in hospitality, it is not surprising that they have been hit hardest by job losses across the economy, with 18.5 per cent of jobs for under-20s gone since mid-March and 11.8 per cent of jobs for under-30s.

Retirement age workers have also been badly affected, with 13.9 per cent of over-70s losing their jobs.

However, men have lost more of their income than women, with their wage payments down 8.9 per cent compared to 7 per cent for females.

Job losses were heaviest in Victoria (8.6 per cent), Tasmania (8 per cent), South Australia (7.8 per cent) and New South Wales (7.4 per cent), which are states that had some of the biggest coronavirus outbreaks and have also had the toughest social-distancing restrictions.

South Australia and Victoria had the largest job losses in accommodation and tourism (40 and 36 per cent respectively).

The Northern Territory had the lowest proportion of job losses at 5.7 per cent, with Queensland (6.5 per cent), Western Australia (6.6. per cent) and the ACT (6.9 per cent) in between.



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