Victoria Drags On Jobs Rebound, Trade Data Improves

By Glenn Dyer | More Articles by Glenn Dyer

The impact of the continuing Victorian lockdowns showed up in the jobs market in a more decisive way in early August while early trade data for July shows a big jump in imports, a worrying dip in exports but yet another trade surplus – the 32nd in a row.

The latest payrolls jobs and wages data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed a fall in payrolls through early August, thanks to events in Victoria.

There were signs of a slight impact in late July in the previous month’s update and then in the labour force report for July as a whole, but the ABS said there would be a clearer view in the August Labour Force report (due in three weeks).

The bureau reported that in the fortnight between July 25 and August 8, payrolls nationally fell by 0.8% while wages dropped by 0.6%. That captured the start of the lockdowns in Melbourne to a stage 4 level and stage 3 in regional areas of Victoria.

Payrolls slipped by 1.6% in Victoria, by 1.5% in the ACT and by 0.9% in Queensland.

But there were also positive signs elsewhere, with payrolls up by 0.3 percent in the Northern Territory and by 0.2 percent in Tasmania.

The ABS’s head of labour statistics with the bureau, Bjorn Jarvis, said over the month to August 8 the number of payroll jobs in Victoria had fallen by 2.8%.

“Some of the initial impacts from the Stage 4 restrictions are shown in the latest weekly data as they came into effect,” he said.

Nationally, payroll jobs are down 4.9% on where they were in mid-March. Wages are down by 6.2%.

Mr. Jarvis said that by August 8, about 43% of all payroll jobs lost by mid-April had been recovered. About half of jobs worked by women had been regained compared to 19% for males.

“Female jobs recovery was greatest for those aged under 20, who also experienced the largest fall in jobs through to mid-April,” he said. These recovered jobs are in cafes, hospitality, fast food, retailing and similar service sectors of the economy.

Meanwhile, there were solid indicators in the early July trade data that the recovery in the economy is continuing (although the Victoria jobs data suggest a weakening in employment and wages).

The total value of goods imported jumped 11% or $2.5 billion in July, according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) preliminary international goods trade figures.

Car imports again jumped sharply in July recovering from the big slide in April and May (down 48% in that month alone). Petrol and oil rose in value thanks to higher global prices but the rise in the value of the Aussie dollar clipped the size of the rise.

Branko Vitas, Program Manager for the ABS’ International Statistics Branch, said on Tuesday that “From June to July 2020, imports of road vehicles increased by $792 million or 49 per cent while imports of petroleum increased $244 million or 15 per cent over the same period.

“The large monthly increases in imports of road vehicles and petroleum follow low values in May and June 2020 at the height of Australia’s COVID-19 restrictions. However, despite the month-on-month increases, imports of road vehicles and petroleum remain low by historical standards, down 25 per cent and 42 per cent respectively when compared to July 2019”.

He said that adding to the overall monthly increase in imports were: transport equipment (including aircraft); non-monetary gold; and imports of commodities associated with personal protective equipment, including face masks.

But on the other side, the value of exports in July fell 6% or $2.0 billion or 6 per cent “driven by declines in exports of resource commodities including iron ore, copper, and coal

The ABS pointed out that the decline in exports of iron ore follows high values across 2020 including a record high export value of $9.9 billion (revised) in June 2020. July exports of iron ore to China from Port Hedland in WA (the main export port in the world)dipped 17% to 38.1 million tonnes.

Partially offsetting these declines, exports of non-monetary gold were up 55% to $3.5 billion, a record high for this series and was driven by the surge in global prices in July (they peaked in August and are down by over $US100 an ounce at the moment).

The ABS said that despite the fall in exports in July, Australia recorded its 32nd trade surplus in July.

Glenn Dyer

About Glenn Dyer

Glenn Dyer has been a finance journalist and TV producer for more than 40 years. He has worked at Maxwell Newton Publications, Queensland Newspapers, AAP, The Australian Financial Review, The Nine Network and Crikey.

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