Unemployment Rate In Surprise Drop As August Logs 110,000 New Jobs

By Glenn Dyer | More Articles by Glenn Dyer

Australian unemployment is heading for a better outcome than previously thought after the surprise rise of more than 110,000 new jobs in August.

The rise came even as Victoria went into coronavirus lockdown – Stage four in Melbourne and Stage 3 in regional areas.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) said the unemployment rate dropped to 6.8% from 7.5% which was significantly better than the gloomy market forecasts for a rise to 8% because of the Victorian lockdowns.

The bureau said 110,000 jobs were added in the month, taking total employment above 12.5 million. It is back to where it was in July 2018, but still around 600,000 short of the level in March of this year (13.13 million) at the start of the pandemic.

Of the jobs created, 74,800 were part-time positions, which is understandable given the still strained economic conditions, especially in Victoria, and to an extent, in NSW.

The strong rise in part-time jobs saw total hours worked rose by just 0.1%.

The ABS said jobless numbers fell sharply in many states. The Northern Territory’s jobless rate fell to 4.2% from 7.5% as the lockdowns eased totally and the state went without any infections. In the tourism dependant states such as Western Australia, it fell to 7% from 8.3%, while in Queensland it went to 7.5% from 8.8%.

In NSW, the nation’s biggest jobs market, the jobless rate eased to 6.7% from 7.2%.

Even after the surge in cases and toughened lockdowns, Victoria’s jobless rate only moved up to 7.1% from 6.8%.

In addition to the large fall in hours worked, employment in Victoria fell by 42,400 people.

Bjorn Jarvis, head of Labour Statistics at the ABS, said: “Employment rose almost 1 percent but hours worked rose by a more modest 0.1 percent. Hours fell by 4.8 percent in Victoria, compared to a 1.8 percent increase across the rest of Australia.”

“The weaker increase in hours worked has also been reflected in the strength of the increase in part-time employment between May and August, which has been almost eight times greater than the increase in full-time employment,” he said yesterday.

Employment growth was stronger for females (67,000 people or 1.1%) than males (44,000 or 0.7%). Hours worked also increased for females (0.2%), with no change for males, and remained around 4.7% and 5.9% below March respectively.

In original terms, most of the employment growth in August was people employed as non-employees (mainly owner-managers of enterprises without employees), with the number of employees remaining relatively similar to July.

“The large increase in seasonally adjusted employment coincided with a large decrease in unemployment of 87,000 people, around 55,000 of whom were females,” Mr. Jarvis said.

He said the large changes in employment and unemployment did not coincide with a large increase in participation, with the participation rate increasing by just 0.1 percentage points. It remained 1.1 percentage points below March (when it was 65.9%).

“With participation relatively unchanged, the increase in employment and decrease in unemployment saw the unemployment rate decrease 0.7 percentage points to 6.8 percent,” Mr. Jarvis said.

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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